The relationship between people and their cars is a lot like people and their pets. We tend to personify them and make them extensions of ourselves. Up until about a year ago I drove a full sized pick up truck full time. Then I got a job with a serious commute and it made sense to buy a nice small fuel efficient car.
I picked a Honda Fit. Not only is it small, it's design makes it look even smaller.
I was unprepared for the change in my social place on the highway as I drove my shiny new car off the dealer lot.
The first thing I noticed is that there was a sudden increase in tailgating. I mean like every car behind me. If I was in the left lane moving with prevailing traffic, I would still have someone right on my bumper. Not only that, the bigger the vehicle behind me, the more aggressive the tailgating. I didn't get it right away, you know, the thought that driving behavior changes not only based on what someone is driving, but also how they relate on the road to vehicles of different types.
I have also found that I am the target for being cut-off if leave a space between me and the car ahead more than a foot longer than the offending vehicle. I have learned to follow rather closely in rush hour traffic so as to not be passed ten times per mile.
I drive that way I always have, even in my small car, and when cut-off, I tend to return the favor. This is very interesting in that the size and value of the vehicle that has done me wrong has a great deal to do with their response to my returning the favor. Suffice it to say, when I take my little car and swing in front of the semi that just nearly ran me over and "'hit the hooks" the driver's response is to threaten to run me over with his bumper on mine, horn and bright lights flashing. In the words of Mr. Spock, "fascinating". It seems that we equate behavior on the road with the vehicle and not the person. On the highway, size does matter.
Part two of this equation is "value" as in cost of the car. How dare you drive in front of my: Lexus, Accura, Infinity, Cadillac, Beemer or Mercedes with your tiny little S__t Box!!!
The arrogance and disregard for others on the highway is almost uniform with this crowd. As though their ability to "afford" their luxury car sets them above us all, above things like using a turn signal, ever... These behaviours seem to know no racial, ethnic or gender bounds. A trucker drives like a trucker, and little cars are driven, well, like little cars. Beemer drivers are as arrogant on the road as they tend to be walking down the street. The behavior on the road is just an exagerated version of who we are. I like to guess type of vehicle a person drives. It isn't hard to get right. I'm getting pretty good at it. Timid on the street, timid on the highway, likely driving a sub-compact. Worn blue jeans, flannels and a John Deere baseball cap, semi or pick up. .
The alarming thing is that on the street or in the grocery store, we all tend to behave a lot more the same. Get out on the road and our rolling cubicles separate us from those around us. Inside those walls of anonymity we become a caricature of ourselves. The timid, are even more so. The most aggressive? Let's just say it ain't pretty.