Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Courteous driving survey

With a claim like this, I just had to delve a bit deeper to see exactly what they did.

Evidently Portland has the most courteous drivers in America, snagging the title from Pittsburgh, last year's winner. Here's a summary of the report. The research methodology states the following:

"Prince Market Research, an independent marketing research company, was commissioned to conduct a nationally representative telephone study with consumers in 25 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. to learn more about consumer views on road rage."

Ahh, nothing like drawing conclusions based on phone surveys *cough*CardandKrueger*cough*.

Let's assume the claims put forth by the study are of merit; what could be the determinants of a city containing more or less courteous drivers?

1. I don't think overall time spent in the car matters, but time spent in traffic probably does, and in a negative way. I'd define traffic as a period of time where you're driving a certain amount of speed or percentage of speed lower than expected.

2. Independent of traffic issues, I'd say the slower average speed on the commute (i.e. freeway vs. surface streets) would lead to more aggressive driving, as shortcut attempts increase. Percent gains on travel time would be greater with behind the wheel entrepreneurship on a slow speed commute.

3. Higher income areas would have higher opportunity costs of being in the car, and hence may be more aggressive in trying to get to their destination faster.

4. 3 begs the question of whether commute time is a function of driving style; I'd say it probably is, though that would be pretty tough to isolate. I'd love to see a study on this. (Not by telephone.)

5. Previous experiences in driving create a feedback cycle on aggressive driving; expecting aggressive driving leads to more proactive aggressive driving.

What else is there?

Ultimately, is courteous driving a cause of and an effect of traffic conditions? I could be convinced of the former within legitimate evidence, and latter is probably true.

As an aside, there are two things about Pittsburgh driving that constantly confound me. First, people are prone to slowing and waiting for an opening on interstate traffic as opposed to merging. It's my general opinion that going slower is probably not the best option when entering a roadway where cars are going faster. Just throwing it out there. Yes, I'm aware that some places have stop signs that mandate this; we're talking where there's an open choice and plenty of room.

The second is that cars will stop at a green light and oncoming traffic to make left-hand turns in front of them. The spontaneous order of driving works well because people can coordinate around common procedures; one of them is right-of-way. This throws a wrench into the whole process. Courteous? Perhaps. Beneficial in the long run? I don't happen to think so.


rolub said...

Sounds like you're describing the Pennsylvania Left. My fiance has learned that @#$% don't fly here in Ohio.

mom said...

Yeah Matt --- You must have learned to drive in California!