Beware the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ drivers

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More than half of drivers admit they behave differently when behind the wheel, acting more aggressively than they would normally according to new research from Churchill Car Insurance which exposes the ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality of UK motorists.

Churchill compared displays of aggression on the road with those in person and found that while 31 per cent have sworn at strangers in the car, only 12 per cent have done so face-to-face. While 26 per cent of motorists have shouted at others while driving, less than half (12 per cent) of that amount have done so in person.

The most popular excuse for driving aggressively is to vent frustrations (50 per cent). Other excuses include “it’s a bad habit” (30 per cent) and, “it isn’t a conscious decision, I just get angry in the car.” In a society where openly expressing anger and aggression is disapproved of and discouraged, inside a car appears to be one of the few places people feel they can vent their emotions.

Indeed, one of the biggest catalysts for so called “Jekyll and Hyde” style driving is the mistaken belief that this behaviour is acceptable when in the car. Indeed when questioned, 27 per cent felt this was acceptable and psychologist insights support this. Drivers feel disassociated from their environment, their car a safe place allowing them to express anger and frustration at another driver and even at life in general without the risk of direct conflict. There is no one to criticise or in close contact, so people feel detached from situations and more able to express their feelings.

Psychologist Donna Dawson said: “One of the reasons drivers exert such different behaviours when on the road is the belief that their behaviour is justified by the circumstances – we tell ourselves ‘the other driver caused me to react this way due to their bad driving. In other words, I am a perfectly reasonable person, reacting normally to another person’s bad behaviour.’”

Churchill’s research shows how dangerous the roads can be, with 29 million motorists (58 per cent) admitting to behaving aggressively while driving. Aggressive driving ranges from beeping horns (33 per cent) and swearing at other drivers (31 per cent) to deliberately tailgating (11 per cent) and chasing someone’s car in anger (four per cent).

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill said: “If you’re confronted with aggressive behaviour on the roads, then try to continue driving calmly and don’t get drawn into an instance of road rage. Remember that these frustrations often blow over as quickly as they arose, so it’s best not to give them any oxygen to escalate”.