Traffic Psychology


One of the newer and most important fields of psychology today is that of traffic psychology. It may sound insignificant at first, but when one considers the amount of traffic accidents and deaths caused by traffic incidents, one starts to consider why these incidents keep on occurring and, more importantly, what the cause of these incidents may be. Traffic psychology is concerned with this very notion and aims to shed some light on some of our more interesting behavior tendencies.

Traffic psychology is very closely related to something known as transportation psychology, but the differences between the two sets are clear. Traffic psychology is primarily concerned with the study of behavior in people driving on the roads and how that behavior influences their actions on the road. This is where “road rage” and all sorts of other terminological distinctions come from. Transportation psychology is, on the other hand, concerned with how people move around in general and is significantly less exciting.

Behavior and Accidents

One of the most important things that traffic psychology touches on is the relationship of behavior and accidents. The study of this behavior usually depends on various ages of drivers and their mode of transportation. Traffic psychology in this area studies such things as the attentiveness of drivers while driving, the cognitive properties of drivers, the driver’s fatigue or workload level and its impact on driving, and the social interactions of driving.

Many findings report some fairly obvious observations. The less social interaction a driver has with the other drivers on his or her road, the more likely an accident is to occur. Driver-to-driver communication is important to avoid collisions. Driver fatigue is also clearly an issue, as those drivers that are not properly rested before getting behind the wheel represent a certain risk to other drivers on the road.

Also important to look at in this area is the idea of driver personality. Drivers who are “risk-takers” are more prone to pass on a double-solid line or perform risky movements in traffic that can put other drivers at risk. This personality often influences many accidents because of the reckless abandon that the individual driver shows towards traffic and the social interactions of the other drivers.

Practical Applications

Traffic psychology has been used to perform a number of practical applications designed to make road travel safer for all drivers on the road. Traffic psychologists collaborate with engineers and city planners to plan roads to make them more effective and “driver-friendly.” Traffic psychology is also used in terms of the economics of the road, with items such as toll booths and gas prices monitored to determine their impact on drivers in general.

Traffic psychologists also introduce educational methods by which to influence good driving behavior. Habits formed through bad traffic psychology are monitored and exposed with advertising campaigns, classroom instruction, and other public property tools. The “road rage” campaigns were one example of traffic psychology at work. Other campaigns involved with traffic psychology include drunken driving campaigns and other campaigns concerned with public safety on the roads.

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* In this video I try to explain Cognitive Dissonance in a way both informative and entertaining.

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13 thoughts on “Traffic Psychology

  1. David Funna

    Buy more popcorn! Great short and sweet explanation, but will require more research for those completely unfamiliar with the subject though. Nice vid though!

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  2. James Burke&Stephen King

    If only your example was true. Changing ones beliefs is only one way to deal with cognitive dissonance. There's also: 1) denial, 2)ignoring and 3) making up b.s. rationalizations. It seems to me that the world would be a much better and different place if we all rid ourselves of all our false ideas.

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