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The science behind why people drive aggressively

Posted at 10:32 PM, Aug 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-01 23:32:19-04

More bad behavior behind the wheel is not just in your mind, aggressive driving is on the rise in Milwaukee and around the country. But there is some science behind why driver act so poorly in their cars. 

Spend a day on any road in Milwaukee County and you see drivers creating their own lanes to pass, people running red lights. One driver even crossed the median on I-41 and goes into the emergency lane to get around a backup. All things Milwaukee County Sheriff Richard Schmidt sees too often.

"That's aggressive driving," said Schmidt.

According to the latest AAA study 80-percent of people drive aggressively at least once a year, 51-percent tailgate, 12-percent cut off other drivers and three-percent bump or ram other vehicles. 

Psychiatrist Dr. Himanshu Agrawal from the Medical College of Wisconsin said the same way people say more aggressive things when they are online than to someone's face is similar to how people act in their cars.

"Being in a car or a vehicle creates this illusion of not being seen," said Agrawal. "You might have been in the situation where you honk at someone and they poke their head out and it's like, 'Oops, it's my boss. And I would never do that to them in real life.'" 

He said all kinds of people do it from all demographics.

"Many individuals who are driving aggressively don't realize they are driving aggressively," said Agrawal.

He said seeing a driver acting rude or aggressive can cause us to have the same behavior. 
So if we want to stop it we need to start being nicer on the road.

"Acts of kindness, smiling to each other or thanking someone if they have let you in can actually also have a ripple effect," said Agrawal.

But if that doesn't work, Schmidt said they have saturation patrols to help remind drivers to act better.

"The speed, people wanting to get somewhere way too fast just because they want to get there. This indoctrinated thing we have got in our culture, it's got to change. And that's why we are doing these patrols," said Schmidt.