If you have no tolerance for even the slightest traffic, does this mean you’re an impatient person? If you’re always driving with both hands anxiously at the top of the wheel, does this mean you’re cautious by nature? If you ever drive hands-free with your knees (which is not something to make a habit of), are you a rebel in other aspects of your life too?
The short answer? Yep, you probably are.
According to 2 Know Myself, a medical website designed to increase understanding of human psychology, emotion and behaviour, your driving style can say a lot about your personality type.
Of course, we all have our off days and our better ones. Our mood can be projected onto the road when we are in a rush, having a bad day, or blasting our fave tunes on the way home.
Generally, the way we drive often says a lot about our actual personality, and therefore our emotional framework when we aren’t behind the wheel.
Farouk Radwan MSc, who studied psychology for 16 years, says there are two main factors that determine how a person will behave when they drive: their mood and their phycological makeup. He notes five key psychological factors that link human emotional behaviour to driving styles. Do you recognise yourself or somehow you know in any of these?
An aggressive driving style can be linked to a controlling personality.
People who crave control (aka the control freaks) are more inclined to respond to other drivers with aggression when they are dissatisfied on the road. Whether it’s through the adjustment of speed, body language, or curse words, the more aggressive personalities will often react in a harsher, more dramatic and emotionally fuelled way than the average driver.
“If, for example, a driver kept flashing high beams at another driver’s mirror in order to let him speed up,” says Farouk, “then this driver will refuse to speed up if he cares about being in control.”
Farouk also says a stubborn person may react in this same way on the road as a defence mechanism to remain in control.
Someone with a big ego will rarely allow others to bypass them.
Generally, in believing they are better or ‘more worthy’ than others, people with inflated egos won’t accept coming in second place.
“That’s why they might start racing with whomever dares to challenge them,” says Farouk.
These drivers may very well be driving ‘normally’, but the second they see someone in the other lane driving faster than them, they get irritated which may start to show by the way they adjust their speed. Which leads us to number three:
Racing other drivers on the road may be linked to feelings of inferiority in one’s personal life.
If a driver feels mediocre or sub-standard in their own life, they may opt for a ‘cheap’ victory while on the road.
Say someone feels insecure or underwhelmed in their personal life. According to Farouk, it is not uncommon for a driver who, for example, owns an old car to try race with someone driving a new sports car. In this instance, the driver wants to feel a sense of superiority over the owner of the fancy new car, as he already feels lesser than that other person.
“This usually happens with the ones who failed to make great achievements in their lives,” says Farouk.
“When a person fails to satisfy his need for success in a direct way, he starts seeking cheap victories in order to satisfy these same needs in other ways”.
Aggressive people are more likely to opt for larger cars.
According to Farouk, the typical driver with road rage is often the one who’s been taught that violence is the answer when it comes to ‘solving’ conflicts. Obviously there are exceptions, but it is these people that generally prefer the ‘bigger’ and ‘stronger’ vehicles.
“By picking a car that is larger and stronger than most cars, those drivers manage to intimidate the other drivers on the road and to keep them away”, says Farouk. “Those drivers want to maintain the identity of being dangerous because it makes them feel more worthy.”
Basically, their goal is to prove they are not someone to mess with to other drivers on the road.
The cautious person versus the rebellious one.
And lastly, the two opposing personalities—the careful driver versus the rebel rover. This is where we can notice a distinction between the perfectionists and law abiders versus the nonconformists and rule-breakers. The cautious ones mean no harm or intimidation, nor do they exceed the speed limit. They always have their seatbelt on and don’t feel the need to compete on the road (and you’ll find its usually the same case when they’re not driving too).
On the other end of the spectrum lie the rebels. These are the people who refuse to stick to norms on and off the road. Perhaps receiving a detention or two in school, and not unfamiliar with a speeding fine either, their occasional disregard for the law says a lot about their nature in general—they are not afraid of a little risk or danger.
“While rebels might not always drive progressively, you can still find many of them driving without licenses, ignoring road safety signs and driving recklessly in some occasions,” says Farouk.
So, can we actually figure people out by the way they drive?
It may sound like a bit of a stretch to link the two, but really, it makes sense when you think about it. Just like how people may buy an expensive item when stressed, have a tendency to yell at someone when they’re angry, or take up yoga to feel better in themselves, people can channel their inner emotions and behavioural tendencies into the physical act of driving—something well within their control to alter based on their mood or mindset.
So, whether it’s the speed we drive at or the type of car we own, what we’re like behind the wheel can say a lot about who we are based our driving choices.
And who knows, maybe now you’ll learn more about your friends and family next time you are a passenger in their car!