Driver confessions: Women swear and flip off others more than men

By Posted : 09/06/2013

If you see a driver cussing in front of kids in the car or flipping people off, it's most likely to be a woman.

Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 1,000 adults, asking them about their rude driving behavior and if they had any regrets about it.

Men aren't pillars of polite driving either – they are twice as likely as women to key someone's car or flash drivers with their high-beams just to be mean, survey results show.

Here's what drivers admit to, with results also broken down by gender:

In addition to the above, grandfathered individual health insurance plans (the kind you buy yourself, not the kind you get from an employer) don't have to:Honked at someone driving too slowly: 41 percent
(Women: 39 percent. Men: 43 percent.)

Swore in front of the kids while driving: 37 percent
(Women: 44 percent. Men: 30 percent.)

Flipped someone off while driving: 29 percent
(Women: 31 percent. Men: 27 percent.)

Brake-checked a car following too closely: 28 percent
(Women: 30 percent. Men: 27 percent.)

Sped up significantly to prevent someone from passing you: 26 percent
(Women: 25 percent. Men: 28 percent.)

Gone when it wasn't your turn at a four-way stop: 19 percent
(Women: 18 percent. Men: 20 percent.)

Tailgated someone on purpose because he or she was going too slowly: 18 percent
(Women: 21 percent. Men: 16 percent.)

Driven to the front of a merge line, then swerved and cut in: 12 percent
(Women: 11 percent. Men: 13 percent.)

Stolen a parking spot someone else was waiting for: 11 percent
(Women:  9 percent. Men: 13 percent.)

Driven in the breakdown lane around traffic: 10 percent
(Women: 8 percent. Men: 13 percent.)

Sped up to block another car with its signal on: 9 percent
(Women: 8 percent. Men: 10 percent.)

Chased after a car that cut you off so you could glare at/flip off the other driver: 9 percent
(Women: 7 percent. Men: 11 percent.)

Swore in front of elderly in-laws while driving: 9 percent
(Women: 9 percent. Men: 10 percent.)

Dinged someone's car in a parking lot and driven away: 8 percent
(Women: 8 percent. Men: 8 percent.)

Turned on your brights at an oncoming car just to be mean: 7 percent
(Women: 4 percent. Men: 11 percent.)

Keyed someone's car: 5 percent
(Women: 3 percent. Men: 7 percent.)

It's likely that most women aren't swearing in front of their children at home, or that anyone is flipping off an annoying person, say, in line at the grocery store. But people feel less inhibited when driving because they feel more anonymous, says Leon James, psychology professor at the University of Hawaii, who has conducted research on driving behaviors.

"Our social behaviors are for the most part conditioned by the social environment. Different rules apply to different places," he says. "The car gives us the illusion of being alone and safe in our fortress. If we do something ugly or inconsiderate we can always get away. But this is different when standing in line with others who are right there next to us."

Our socialization and culture also influence how we act behind the wheel, says James. "Our driving behavior styles are culturally determined. I call the back seat of the car 'road rage nursery.'  That's when our driver education begins. We absorb how the parents or other adults drive and how they talk and complain behind the wheel," he says. "We also watch TV scenes and commercials where driving aggressively, fast and with plenty of verbal rudeness are portrayed as attractive and satisfying. So, getting behind the wheel changes the rules."

Additionally, driving is often viewed as a competitive activity, which makes people behave more aggressively than they otherwise would. "Drivers have acquired the philosophy that in such competitive social situations it's alright to do whatever one can to beat out the others," says James, "whether it's the trip time, or getting into the fastest lane and switching around, or driving on the shoulder and getting ahead of everyone."

Any regrets?

Some drivers aren't losing sleep over their rude driving habits. One quarter of people who admit to bad behavior while driving said they don't regret any of their past misdeeds.

The least regretted action was brake-checking cars that are following too closely. There must be some satisfaction to seeing the driver behind you panic and swerve.

But those with a guilty conscious say they have the following regrets:

  • Swore in front of the kids while driving: 75 percent
  • Dinged someone's car in a parking lot and driven away: 62 percent
  • Keyed someone's car: 56 percent
  • Swore in front of elderly in-laws while driving: 51 percent
  • Gone when it wasn't your turn at a 4-way stop: 51 percent
  • Flipped someone off while driving: 47 percent
  • Turned on your brights at an oncoming car just to be mean: 46 percent
  • Stolen a parking spot someone else was waiting for: 46 percent
  • Chased after a car that cut you off so you could glare at them/flip them off: 44 percent
  • Driven in the breakdown lane around traffic: 44 percent
  • Sped up to block another car with its signal on: 42 percent
  • Tailgated someone on purpose because he or she was going too slow: 41 percent
  • Driven to the front of a merge line, then swerved and cut in: 36 percent
  • Honked at someone driving too slowly: 36 percent
  • Sped up significantly to prevent someone from passing you: 36 percent
  • Brake-checked a car following too closely: 34 percent

Methodology:  Insurance.com commissioned a survey of 500 men and 500 women with children age 12 and under living at home. The survey was fielded in April 2013.

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