Let’s talk about the psychology of driving. Scientists are studying our behind-the-wheel-behaviors, and here’s what they’ve found:

  • First, why do we buy the cars we buy? Well, according to psychologist, Jeffrey Miller, whether we know it or not, we’re buying our car to impress the opposite sex. The guy in the BMW is trying to say he’s a good provider, and the woman in that little convertible is signaling that she’s open and assertive. Miller recently did a study that found that when men are single, they’re more willing to buy a flashy car to impress the ladies. When people couple up, they’re in nurturing mode and opt for a hybrid or a mini-van.

  • Next behind-the-wheel behavior: Driving phobia. This is more common than you think and most often happens to younger women. Jerilyn Ross is the Director of the Ross Center for Anxiety in Washington D.C. She says driving phobics are convinced that they’ll have an accident while driving. Ross says they KNOW their worries are irrational but they can’t do anything to stop them. Most people can be cured after about 12 sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches people relaxation techniques. 

  • Another behavior that psychologists are trying to understand is road rage. What’s baffling about road rage is that the worst offenders are often model citizens, everywhere but behind the wheel. The problem is that driving happens in a public space, the road, AND a private one, our cars, at the same time. So, when someone does something like cut us off, we react as if they’d done it to us in our own home! But, there’s a fix. Road rage experts suggest replacing negative thoughts about other drivers with positive ones. If someone’s blinker is on think “I do that sometimes too,” instead of “what an idiot!”