Research Papers

Combatting Aggressive Driving: A Multidiscipline Approach

Version 1
Date added July 29, 2015
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Category 2015 CARSP XXV Ottawa
Tags Research and Evaluation, Session 4C
Author/Auteur David L. Wiesenthal, James E. W. Roseborough, Christine M. Wickens
Stream/Volet Research and Evaluation

Slidedeck Presentation Only (no paper submitted)

4C - Wiesenthal



Aggressive driving has increasingly been seen as a problem by North American motorists, with the perceived increase, greatest in the most populated cities. Various engineering approaches to aggressive driving have chiefly been “traffic calming”, i.e., roadway design changes. Solutions have also been proposed in vehicle design. Police enforcement is often mentioned as a solution when public outcry over aggressive driving is discussed in the news media.


We will argue that there are several approaches to controlling aggressive driving from the perspective of highway engineering, education, enforcement, vehicle design and psychology, but that to have a long-lasting effect, all components need to play a role. Psychology’s contribution lies in the area of behavioural control achieved through the principles of learning theory (e.g., prompting strategies, reward/reinforcement control, motivational analysis) and programme evaluation.

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Applied psychological approaches have been drawn from various areas of psychology, chiefly from applied behavior analysis which utilizes changes in reward and punishment, as well as prompting strategies. While the effectiveness of applied behavioral analysis has been repeatedly demonstrated, the sustainability of these interventions has not been proven. Stress reduction, promotion of mass transit, along with modifying drivers’ attributions regarding the motivation of other road users may also prove useful in combating aggressive driving. Media portrayals of exciting car chases have become increasingly common in television and the cinema and the concern over imitation of these dramatic events is legitimate—especially in the case of young, male drivers.


For psychology to offer guidance to policy makers in governmental and non-governmental organizations, there needs to be a careful study of the time frame for the introduction of new programmes because many such interventions may show dramatic early improvements that weaken over time. Hence, longitudinal designs for implementing change become crucial. The importance of well planned evaluation research and a societal-wide multidisciplinary approach to combating driver aggression combining the various implementations reviewed is seen as the most fruitful path.

David L. Wiesenthal, James E. W. Roseborough, Christine M. Wickens