Skip to main content

Driving Cascades

Anyone who lives in southern New York can tell you what it means to “Drive like a Westchester mom”. Essentially, this statement describes the type of driver whose actions on the road reflect only his or her own self-interests. These drivers are easy to spot out and are more likely to cause road rage in other drivers, as well as raise their own risk to be pulled over or cause an accident. But if there are several aggressive drivers on the road at one time, are people supposed to allow those drivers to act recklessly and hope for their own safety, or should they change their driving style based on what the drivers around them are doing?

In an article published in Emirates 24/7, it is suggested that reckless driving is contagious and very popular, especially on main roads. Several examples are given in this article, one of which I found to be very interesting. The author notes that aggressive driving does not even need to be caused by other aggressive drivers, but rather what one driver sees in the others in the road. Put differently, if a driver feels threatened by another driver due to their type of car, age, gender or speed, they may change their driving style to assert themselves on the road. For example, a person driving behind a large old trick may want to pass it because they feel unsafe driving next to a vehicle that could potentially damage theirs, or if a teenager sees another teen driving a sports car, they may feel the urge to test the limits on their own car. Whatever the case is, people draw conclusions about how they should drive based on information inferred from other people. When this happens, and people become aware of the increased number of aggressive drivers around them, people will conform to the driving style that they believe will benefit them most in a given scenario, which in many cases includes breaking some road laws. As more people begin to conform, others will take notice and conform as well until every driver on the road is adjusted.

Decision-making based on the actions of a group is a very interesting topic covered in lecture. One major example we talked about was an information cascade, where people are told to make sequential decisions based on private information that is not necessary factually relevant. In the example we saw, people were asked to draw a marble out of four in a bag (either blue or red), then guess how many marbles of each color remained. The next person only got to see the marble they pick and the guess the other person made. In this example, everyone is making their decision based at least partially on the information presented by others. Like the marble conundrum, drivers are only given very limited information by other drivers, and are forced to choose their own actions based on what they view as well as what the drivers around them view.




Leave a Reply

Blogging Calendar

November 2012