I have no way of proving it but I would be prepared to bet that the passengers pushing and shoving others out of the way to get to the lifeboats on the sinking Italian liner Costa Concordia a week ago (13 January 2012) are aggressive drivers. You can read a lot about people's character in the way they drive. Cocooned by our cars from direct contact with fellow human beings we all tend to be at our most misanthropic on the road, but aggressive drivers turn their misanthropy into an art form, displaying their belief in "me first" as clearly in their driving as if they had it printed on a sticker on their back windscreen. Most are in a perpetual state of impatience, trying to get ahead of everyone else by any means they can get away with short of metal to metal (though it sometimes comes to that). Some treat the road as a Dodgem rink. I have seen a driver rocket up a left-turn-only lane to push into the straight-ahead-bound mainstream at the last second. Others thread a perilous course in and out of a parking lane past traffic waiting at the lights to arrive level with the head of the queue and almost jump the lights to take off again back into the mainstream ahead of the traffic that's been waiting. Then there's the weaver from one lane to another to get ahead on a freeway, clearly the type who is not to going to let anything stand in the way of his ambition. Egoists aspire to possess the road. Cursing and muttering, they regard all other drivers as trespassers on their territory. In the semiotics of driving horn-blasting and fingers poked in their air are the language of their displeasure, as they are of the frustrated sales reps in company cars who drive recklessly with what they imagine is panache because it is their only way of showing that they too are free spirits when, after a day of knuckling under to exigent bosses and indifferent clients unanxious to buy, it is obvious that they are not. Sneaks by nature slow down when a police car comes into view and speed up again once it's gone. People in cars can be capable of acting with a disdain for other travellers most would not have the nerve to show if face to face with the same people on public transport. Unless of course they're on a sinking ship. Though I should probably add in defiance of my theory that none of us knows how he would behave in a state of panic. We know only - or those who try not to be aggressive drivers do - how we would wish to behave.
18 January 2012