It’s All About Attitude

This past weekend, as we took a daytrip, I enjoyed observing and photographing the quickly-passing landscape. Part of that landscape was the populated highway, brimming with fellow drivers. It was amazing to suddenly realize that there seemed to be a majority of Toyota Prius and Volkswagen (Jetta or new Beetle). I didn’t by any means effect a logical and complete count, but these two types of vehicles kept seeming to pop up on either (east or west bound lanes) side of the highway. I kept an eye on license plates, and made sure these weren’t the same two or three cars reappearing.

Of course, there were tons of other cars (Escalade, larger vans, Honda Odyssey, Pontiacs), and lots of semi trucks as well, but I wanted to focus on the attitude and personality traits of the Prius and Volkswagen drivers because they seemed to be communicating more loudly than the other drivers. These seemed to be more obvious.

We all know that individuals make purchasing decisions, particularly on large-ticket items, to indicate or elevate social status to those around us. So how does your car transmit your personality — through some unspoken language — to fellow drivers, or even your neighbors? I think it’s all in the way we drive or conduct ourselves within our vehicles.

I believe I witnessed the reocurrence of some standardized behavior while I observed that environment. Now, you might be asking yourself… how do you figure someone’s attitude or personality when you’re checking them out while driving pretty fast on a highway? Here’s some of the observations I made while we were driving up and down I-88, on a particularly sunny Saturday afternoon.

The Prius driver tends to usually not only follow the speed limit but also make smooth and slow maneuvers. The driver typically sits comfortably, with a semi-smile on his or her lips, and very straight but comfortable posture. They take the time to casually observe the drivers and cars that pass them. Usually there’s at least one other person in the car, but I’ve not observed any lively conversation during my observation. You seldom see any luggage or other packaged materials in the rear seats. The driver tends to hold the elbows bent and held a little higher than usually — I wasn’t sure if this was an ergonomic mistake, or whether it was in correction to an uncomfortable steering wheel position. Or was this to indicate self-assuredness and comfort? A majority of Prius drivers tended to be older, as in their mid- to late-40s or 50s. Another typically-occurring driver behavior is that the majority prefer to stay on the right-hand, slower lane…with usually a very long distance between them and the next vehicle. This may have to do with other drivers preferring to pass them and therefore, leaving these folk on their own, vs sticking to a pack or group of speedier drivers.

Then we have the VW drivers. The majority of the VW I saw were either a new Beetle or a Jetta. There were some Tuareg, as well as Golf drivers. These drivers drive faster than vehicles in the right-most lane, but tend to moderate their speed and lane usage based on the traffic ahead. They don’t rashly move from one lane to another, for example. One thing that seems consistent is that they do not like to immediately brake while using the cruise control and facing a narrowing distance between them and the next vehicle–typically a semi truck.
Therefore, they don’t typically tailgate, but instead keep a safe distance. Their vehicles seem nimble and alert, I’m sure a reflection of the drivers. It’s almost as if they’re thoroughly enjoying the drive as they’re going along. They seem younger (in their late 20s or 30s). There was no overt smile nor somewhat awkward elbow position. Rather, it seemed a number were engaging in lively conversation with their passenger(s) with some gesticulation at times. I did spot some tattoos, and a guy with a bandanna and an earring. How very with it. VW drivers rely on their cars’ cargo-handling ability, sometimes to the fullest extent. Filling the rear seats — on those occasions these were void of passengers — with luggage, baskets, and bags of personal belongings. However, there always seems to be method to the madness, and things seem orderly in their placement.

So there’s my observations. I wonder if I’m on to something? Have you ever observed similarities in driver behavior, when on a long road trip? Do you ever wonder what the people around you on the highway (or during rush hour!) could be like?

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