Money, Cars, and Speed

Several years ago my husband developed a theory that people who drove “round emblem” cars were more dangerous drivers than anyone else. Before you get bent out of shape, I drove a BMW at the time, and he didn’t exempt me either. I had previously declared that people who drove a particular brand of car were all jerks. His theory was a bit more inclusive. We hadn’t revisited the theory for a few years until last week when this article “If You Drive an Expensive Car, You’re Probably a Jerk, Scientists Say,” came across my Twitter feed. I didn’t mention it to him when I saw it, but he sent it to me as proof that his theory was (mostly) right.

Let’s take a look at the findings…

“The science is looking pretty unanimous on this one: Drivers of expensive cars are the worst.”

Drivers of “flashy” cars are 3% less likely to slow or stop for pedestrians for every extra $1,000 of vehicle price. The news isn’t pretty – only 28% of drivers yield for pedestrians making mid-block crossings, but if you are a POC it is worse.

Of course the study raises some more questions: Are there particular vehicle makes or classes that are less likely to yield? What is the price threshold for changed behavior? Does the race and gender of the driver affect yield behavior? What about age? Why do the drivers fail to yield?

The study was conducted at a mid-block marked crossing. This is particularly interesting to me because my office building is across the street from a food hall where I am frequently buying lunch, coffee, granola, or acai bowls. I use a mid-block crossing to cross directly between doors. The street is brick pavement and low speed. There’s parking on both sides of the street. The crosswalk is marked with a sign that says drivers are required to yield to pedestrians. There are police everywhere. And yet I doubt the yield to pedestrians percentage exceeds 50%…even for me as a white woman. It is also interesting professionally, but the personal reasons are probably more relatable – I want to cross the streets safely.

I like to see the study replicated in more places, especially in the Midwest, and maybe with a methodology that allows the race and gender of the driver to be included in the analysis. It would provide more information about the interventions that might keep people safe when crossing the street.

Science aside, what do you think? Are people who drive expensive cars, jerks?

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