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Wealthy Drivers More Likely To Break Traffic Rules 37

BMW X6 SUV

BMW X6 – Photo by Triple RS

University of California Berkeley researchers recently performed a series of studies that found a strong correlation between wealthy people and cheating. Among other things, it found that people driving expensive cars were four times as likely to enter an intersection when they didn’t have the right of way.

From the LA Times:

“People driving expensive cars were more likely than other motorists to cut off drivers and pedestrians at a four-way-stop intersection in the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley researchers observed. Those findings led to a series of experiments that revealed that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back.”

To explain this phenomenon, the researchers concluded that rich people are less dependent on social bonds for survival, so they have less concern about rules. Or perhaps rich people’s disregard for rules was one of the reasons why they became rich in the first place.

More from the LA Times article:

“The driving experiments offered a way to test the hypothesis “naturalistically,” he said. Trained observers hid near a downtown Berkeley intersection and noted the makes, model years and conditions of bypassing cars. Then they recorded whether drivers waited their turn.

It turned out that people behind the wheels of the priciest cars were four times as likely as drivers of the least expensive cars to enter the intersection when they didn’t have the right of way. The discrepancy was even greater when it came to a pedestrian trying to exercise a right of way.

There is a significant correlation between the price of a car and the social class of its driver, Piff said. Still, how fancy a car looks isn’t a perfect indicator of wealth.

So back in the laboratory, Piff and his colleagues conducted five more tests to measure unethical behavior — and to connect that behavior to underlying attitudes toward greed.”

Read the full LA Times article here.

This study certainly attests to the anecdotal observations that I have made while riding a bicycle – namely that the vast majority of BMW drivers drive like assholes.

Wealthy people seem to feel they are more entitled than the less wealthy, and this study highlights that this extends beyond our streets and is widespread in our society.

A Hummer driver once argued to me that he has more of a right to the road than me because he pays more for the road through fuel taxes.

I guess that also means the Hummer driver has more of a right to breathe in exhaust fumes than me because he emits more than I do.

Wrap those lips around your tailpipe Mr. Hummer. Suck it like you’ve never sucked before – you sure have earned it friend.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

i share the road

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  • Easy

    Link to the article?

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Updated now… had the updates ready to go but couldn’t hit the publish button because I need to be on VPN. But I couldn’t get on VPN because I was on a phone call over VOIP.

      The joys of living in China ;)

      • D Web

        The only correlation I have made is between the “macho” men in their trucks or imports and their need for speed and their hatred of cyclists.

  • Easy

    Link to the article?

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Updated now… had the updates ready to go but couldn’t hit the publish button because I need to be on VPN. But I couldn’t get on VPN because I was on a phone call over VOIP.

    The joys of living in China ;)

  • http://twitter.com/BikeBikeYYC BikeBike Inc.

    My experience in Calgary is similar though the auto type is different. Out here i have more crappy run-ins with douchy drivers in Audi’s than BMW’s – also, people in white vans and pickups are usually even worse. My guess is these “white van men” are driving company or rented vehicles and are not concerned about their driving because they are ot in their own car.

    Could the study results be highlighting the real and growing threat of Affluenza with the accompanying symptoms of entitlement, road rage, and ignorance?

  • http://twitter.com/BikeBikeYYC BikeBike Inc.

    My experience in Calgary is similar though the auto type is different. Out here i have more crappy run-ins with douchy drivers in Audi’s than BMW’s – also, people in white vans and pickups are usually even worse. My guess is these “white van men” are driving company or rented vehicles and are not concerned about their driving because they are ot in their own car.

    Could the study results be highlighting the real and growing threat of Affluenza with the accompanying symptoms of entitlement, road rage, and ignorance?

  • Boyan Tsolov

    Nice link!
    I would also add Audi drivers to the list of assholes.

  • Boyan Tsolov

    Nice link!
    I would also add Audi drivers to the list of assholes.

  • Alex

    We all knew that about BMW drivers though, right? I drive and ride almost every day (I have a folding bike that I keep in my trunk). Whether I’m riding or driving, it’s good to know I’m not imagining it.

  • Alex

    We all knew that about BMW drivers though, right? I drive and ride almost every day (I have a folding bike that I keep in my trunk). Whether I’m riding or driving, it’s good to know I’m not imagining it.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

    You can create a study to prove pretty much anything. You can then create a study to prove the exact opposite. Both will show statistically significant results. I drive a Nissan Versa (cheap car) and I’m usually very courteous, but sometimes I drive like an asshole (I’m mindful of it). In my experience on the road (car and bike) I find that drivers of small, crappy cars (ie. 20 yr old Toyota Corolla) are the most likely to make errors. See, I just disproved the theory.

    Maybe this is all about trying to put rich people in a bad light. That trend has been going on for a while now, and it’s likely to continue. Maybe we should be more mindful and not participate in that kind of class warfare.

    • Agustin

      disproved

      I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

      • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

        dis·prove   [dis-proov]
        verb (used with object), -proved, -prov·ing.
        to prove (an assertion, claim, etc.) to be false or wrong; refute; invalidate: I disproved his claim.

        I’m pretty sure it does. Maybe you can offer more insight instead of one word replies to a valid point.

        • Agustin

          Fair enough; here’s some more insight:

          1. You offered anecdotal observations as a rebuttal to a peer-reviewed published study. You did not prove or disprove anything; you merely commented on what you have seen. To disprove a theory you would need to conduct a study of your own, and control for biases, etc.

          2. The article quoted above clearly states that the researchers found that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back (emphasis mine). It does not say that only people of higher socioeconomic status do these things. Therefore pointing out some exceptions doesn’t disprove anything either.

          By your method I could “disprove” that smoking cigarettes causes cancer by pointing to three people who smoked all their lives but didn’t die of cancer. Or I could point to three people that never had a cigarette in their lives and yet died of lung cancer at the age of 35.

          • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

            Thanks for the clarification. My ridiculous example was an extension of the statement that preceded it. I said that one can design a study to prove whatever one wants. This is why we have studies that prove one thing, then other studies that prove the exact opposite. If I were to actually have the time and money to design a study and carry it out, I could probably prove that poor people are more selfish than rich people.
            My point was that observational studies aren’t really worth anything. My further conclusion was that these results will be used to further a stereotype. I then asked the forum to try and stop the class warfare (ie. “those” people are assholes because they’re rich or –insert other differentiating factor here–). If you’d rather hate on someone cause they have money, then be my guest, but at least be mindful of why you feel that hate.

          • Agustin

            My ridiculous example was an extension of the statement that preceded it.

            Does this mean that the statement, by extension, was also ridiculous?

            one can design a study to prove whatever one wants

            This is my point: a scientific study cannot be designed to prove whatever one wants – not if proper scientific methods are used.

            If you assert that the study was flawed in some way, then you have to back it up with some evidence. Otherwise it comes across like you’re simply submitting to your confirmation biases (which is actually what you are accusing others of doing).

            Or you could assert that the conclusions drawn from the study are not warranted by the results of the study. In the particular case being discussed on this blog post, I’d suggest this is probably your best tack. But then you need to be prepared to present a proper logical argument about how the conclusion does not follow from the results.

            I then asked the forum to try and stop the class warfare (ie. “those” people are assholes because they’re rich or –insert other differentiating factor here–)

            Please note that, although they don’t use the word asshole, the researchers did in fact reach the conclusion that an increase (even a perceived increase) in socioeconomic status led to an increase in unethical behaviour. Here’s a quote from the Science article on the research:

            When participants were manipulated into thinking of themselves as belonging to a higher class than they did, the poorer ones, too, began to behave unethically.

            [http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/02/shame-on-the-rich.html]

            If you’d rather hate on someone cause they have money, then be my guest, but at least be mindful of why you feel that hate.

            I don’t personally “hate on” anyone because they have money, but let me ask you a couple of corollary questions: in your mind, is it possible to conduct a study/experiment that would convince you of the link between socioeconomic status and unethical behaviour? If so, what does that study look like and how does this one fall short? If not, why is your mind closed to the possibility?

            I hypothesise that you have a preconceived idea about a “class warfare” being waged by the low and middle classes against the upper class, and the existence of this this research and its conclusions allows you to confirm that idea. Naturally I don’t have a way of proving that, but I hope that you can have an open and honest dialogue, at least with yourself, about this.

          • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

            I’m going to address one of your points: “in your mind, is it possible to conduct a study/experiment that would convince you of the link between socioeconomic status and unethical behaviour? If so, what does that study look like and how does this one fall short?”

            The simple answer to those questions is “yes” and “see below”

            In order to have a study with meaningful results, the gold standard is a double-blind experiment with control, placebo, and study groups.

            I’m sure you’re familiar with the design of such a study, so I’ll go into my reasoning.

            Let’s say I’m a researcher in this particular observational study, and I’m interviewing someone who appears to be wearing an expensive suit. Automatically, I’m biased about this person’s income and possible answers. My bias will bleed into the results, there is no way around that.

            If the study is controlled as a double-blind experiment, then all persons participating will be wearing the same clothes, no jewelry, and driving the same car. If the wealth of the person is what is causing them to be assholes, then that should come through, regardless of what car they are driving, or what clothes they are wearing.

            The control group would be made up of people from all socio-economic groups, and the placebo group would be people who are “misled” into thinking they are wealthy or poor.

            I know my explanations are simplistic, but I really can’t be bothered to reply with more. I hope you get the point.

            As you can see, a study like this would have to involve a lot of people, it would take a lot of time, and it would cost a whole bunch of money.

            The researchers that conducted our observational study probably had none of these things, so they winged it.

            Their results are absolutely meaningless because extraneous variables are not controlled, and there are plenty of opportunities for bias to creep in.

          • Agustin

            I know my explanations are simplistic, but I really can’t be bothered to reply with more. I hope you get the point.

            As you can see, a study like this would have to involve a lot of people, it would take a lot of time, and it would cost a whole bunch of money.

            I do get the point. I don’t know that a double-blind study is appropriate here, given that what is important is the subject’s perception of his own socioeconomic status relative to those around him/her.

            Their results are absolutely meaningless because extraneous variables are not controlled, and there are plenty of opportunities for bias to creep in.

            If you dismiss observational studies categorically, you miss out on a lot of interesting research and conclusions. For instance, you’d be throwing out most, if not all, research done in sociology.

            Not only that, but if you dismiss observational studies categorically, then you must also dismiss any conclusions you draw directly from your own observations in life: if observational studies are meaningless because there are plenty of opportunity for bias to creep in, then surely your own observations are also meaningless because there are even more opportunities for bias to creep in.

          • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

            Absolutely correct regarding your last statement. My observations are meaningless to anyone but myself. I can assure you that conclusions from my observations are full of my own biases and prejudices.
            Regarding the study design, one can perceive their own wealth or lack thereof despite driving a rusty ’95 Civic, or wearing Wrangler jeans (and the opposite). The double-blind controlled study is for the benefit of the researchers, not the participants. It’s researcher bias I’m concerned about, not recall bias, or some other form of participant bias.
            Regarding sociological studies that are purely observational, I do not trust their results one little bit. Show me a good observational study that has been able to eliminate all bias and control all relevant variables, and I’ll show you a blank piece of paper.

          • Agustin

            Wow this gets interesting as the reply columns get narrower!

            Anyway, these two statements don’t jive for me:

            My observations are meaningless to anyone but myself. I can assure you that conclusions from my observations are full of my own biases and prejudices.

            Which brings me to my point that there is a class war going on, perpetrated by many people who stand to benefit from hatred between social classes (divide and conquer and all that jazz).
            I see and hear this crap all the time, and I’m really sick of it. Now “science” proves that wealthy people are dicks and we should all hate them…just because they’re wealthy.
            That’s what I’m having a huge problem with.

            You’ve drawn conclusions (“there is a class war being waged against the upper class with the aim of conquering the upper class”, to paraphrase) from your own observations – which you readily tell us are not to be trusted. Which is it?

          • Agustin

            (Sorry for the double post)

            Also, add In my mind, perception of higher status does encourage people to be more unethical to the list of conclusions you’ve reached, presumably from your own observations and possibly on the back of at least the observational study at hand.

          • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

            Hey guys, I have been following and enjoying this discussion on here, thanks. Although I am no expert in scientific studies, I wanted to point out that in the study in question, the observational portion of the research was followed up by non-observational research to address the hypothesis.

            Here are a few quotes from the article that provide a brief explanation about how this was conducted:

            “There is a significant correlation between the price of a car and the social class of its driver, Piff said. Still, how fancy a car looks isn’t a perfect indicator of wealth.

            So back in the laboratory, Piff and his colleagues conducted five more tests to measure unethical behavior — and to connect that behavior to underlying attitudes toward greed.

            For instance, the team used a standard questionnaire to get college students to assess their own socioeconomic status and asked how likely subjects were to behave unethically in eight different scenarios.

            Another experiment recruited people from Craigslist to play a “game of chance” that the researchers had rigged. People who reported higher social class were more likely to have favorable attitudes toward greed — and were more likely to cheat at the game.

          • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

            Thanks for chiming in James. I have read the article and those two points are what make this study somewhat credible.
            However, the recurring factor is that during both stages, participants report their own status.
            This creates another bias, and while the findings of the research may be true, the conclusions should read: “People who view themselves as wealthy…”
            Emphasis on the words “view themselves as”. Therefore, perceived wealth may lead to more unethical behaviour. Which means that people who aren’t objectively wealthy may act unethically, due to their perceived social status.
            So what causes unethical behaviour then, is it really wealth, or is it a perception of higher status?
            In my mind, perception of higher status does encourage people to be more unethical. However, that does not imply that money or wealth will bring the same result.
            Which brings me to my point that there is a class war going on, perpetrated by many people who stand to benefit from hatred between social classes (divide and conquer and all that jazz).
            I see and hear this crap all the time, and I’m really sick of it. Now “science” proves that wealthy people are dicks and we should all hate them…just because they’re wealthy.
            That’s what I’m having a huge problem with.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    You can create a study to prove pretty much anything. You can then create a study to prove the exact opposite. Both will show statistically significant results. I drive a Nissan Versa (cheap car) and I’m usually very courteous, but sometimes I drive like an asshole (I’m mindful of it). In my experience on the road (car and bike) I find that drivers of small, crappy cars (ie. 20 yr old Toyota Corolla) are the most likely to make errors. See, I just disproved the theory.

    Maybe this is all about trying to put rich people in a bad light. That trend has been going on for a while now, and it’s likely to continue. Maybe we should be more mindful and not participate in that kind of class warfare.

  • http://bicyclestc.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    Before I started cycling places I use to walk everywhere. I was crossing the Lake Street overpass when a female cyclist was struck from behind by a car.

    The woman in the car was dressed in an exceptionally expensive suit and was driving an Audi. First thing she did when she got out of her car was went to check the front for damage.
    She then made her way over to the cyclist (who got up instantly to get on the sidewalk), didn’t say anything but was checking out her car still.

    The cyclist said I didn’t have to wait around (since it actually happened just behind me and I didn’t see it happen). Fortunately for her, all that happened was a few cuts to her arm, but I don’t know what happened after.

    I could tell the driver was more put off by being late for work then anything else by time I left.
    Good lesson to motorists who are in a hurry actually. Wait those extra 5-15 seconds to pass a cyclist safely, instead of spending your morning at an accident scene.

    I dare say one host on CFRB made a good point though. There are many who will live in a run down house and sacrifice everything in order to own (err, I mean spend their entire life paying off) a “nice” car.
    Whenever I have ridden through some of St. Catharines more crappy neighbourhoods, it is quite common to see ‘nice’ cars.

  • http://bicyclesofniagara.tumblr.com/ Ryan

    Before I started cycling places I use to walk everywhere. I was crossing the Lake Street overpass when a female cyclist was struck from behind by a car.

    The woman in the car was dressed in an exceptionally expensive suit and was driving an Audi. First thing she did when she got out of her car was went to check the front for damage.
    She then made her way over to the cyclist (who got up instantly to get on the sidewalk), didn’t say anything but was checking out her car still.

    The cyclist said I didn’t have to wait around (since it actually happened just behind me and I didn’t see it happen). Fortunately for her, all that happened was a few cuts to her arm, but I don’t know what happened after.

    I could tell the driver was more put off by being late for work then anything else by time I left.
    Good lesson to motorists who are in a hurry actually. Wait those extra 5-15 seconds to pass a cyclist safely, instead of spending your morning at an accident scene.

    I dare say one host on CFRB made a good point though. There are many who will live in a run down house and sacrifice everything in order to own (err, I mean spend their entire life paying off) a “nice” car.
    Whenever I have ridden through some of St. Catharines more crappy neighbourhoods, it is quite common to see ‘nice’ cars.

  • D Web

    The only correlation I have made is between the “macho” men in their trucks or imports and their need for speed and their hatred of cyclists.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    dis·prove   [dis-proov]
    verb (used with object), -proved, -prov·ing.
    to prove (an assertion, claim, etc.) to be false or wrong; refute; invalidate: I disproved his claim.

    I’m pretty sure it does. Maybe you can offer more insight instead of one word replies to a valid point.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    Thanks for the clarification. My ridiculous example was an extension of the statement that preceded it. I said that one can design a study to prove whatever one wants. This is why we have studies that prove one thing, then other studies that prove the exact opposite. If I were to actually have the time and money to design a study and carry it out, I could probably prove that poor people are more selfish than rich people.
    My point was that observational studies aren’t really worth anything. My further conclusion was that these results will be used to further a stereotype. I then asked the forum to try and stop the class warfare (ie. “those” people are assholes because they’re rich or ). If you’d rather hate on someone cause they have money, then be my guest, but at least be mindful of why you feel that hate.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    I’m going to address one of your points: “in your mind, is it possible to conduct a study/experiment that would convince you of the link between socioeconomic status and unethical behaviour? If so, what does that study look like and how does this one fall short?”

    The simple answer to those questions is “yes” and “see below”

    In order to have a study with meaningful results, the gold standard is a double-blind experiment with control, placebo, and study groups.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the design of such a study, so I’ll go into my reasoning.

    Let’s say I’m a researcher in this particular observational study, and I’m interviewing someone who appears to be wearing an expensive suit. Automatically, I’m biased about this person’s income and possible answers. My bias will bleed into the results, there is no way around that.

    If the study is controlled as a double-blind experiment, then all persons participating will be wearing the same clothes, no jewelry, and driving the same car. If the wealth of the person is what is causing them to be assholes, then that should come through, regardless of what car they are driving, or what clothes they are wearing.

    The control group would be made up of people from all socio-economic groups, and the placebo group would be people who are “misled” into thinking they are wealthy or poor.

    I know my explanations are simplistic, but I really can’t be bothered to reply with more. I hope you get the point.

    As you can see, a study like this would have to involve a lot of people, it would take a lot of time, and it cost a whole bunch of money.

    The researchers that conducted our observational study probably had none of these things, so they winged it.

    Their results are absolutely meaningless because extraneous variables are not controlled, and there are plenty of opportunities for bias to creep in.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    Absolutely correct regarding your last statement. My observations are meaningless to anyone but myself. I can assure you that conclusions from my observations are full of my own biases and prejudices.
    Regarding the study design, one can perceive their own wealth or lack thereof despite driving a rusty ’95 Civic, or wearing Wrangler jeans (and the opposite). The double-blind controlled study is for the benefit of the researchers, not the participants. It’s researcher bias I’m concerned about, not recall bias, or some other form of participant bias.
    Regarding sociological studies that are purely observational, I do not trust their results one little bit. Show me a good observational study that has been able to eliminate all bias and control all relevant variables, and I’ll show you a blank piece of paper.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Hey guys, I have been following and enjoying this discussion on here, thanks. Although I am no expert in scientific studies, I wanted to point out that in the study in question, the observational portion of the research was followed up by non-observational research to address the hypothesis.

    Here are a few quotes from the article that provide a brief explanation about how this was conducted:

    “There is a significant correlation between the price of a car and the social class of its driver, Piff said. Still, how fancy a car looks isn’t a perfect indicator of wealth.

    So back in the laboratory, Piff and his colleagues conducted five more tests to measure unethical behavior — and to connect that behavior to underlying attitudes toward greed.

    For instance, the team used a standard questionnaire to get college students to assess their own socioeconomic status and asked how likely subjects were to behave unethically in eight different scenarios.

    Another experiment recruited people from Craigslist to play a “game of chance” that the researchers had rigged. People who reported higher social class were more likely to have favorable attitudes toward greed — and were more likely to cheat at the game.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    Thanks for chiming in James. I have read the article and those two points are what make this study somewhat credible.
    However, the recurring factor is that during both stages, participants report their own status.
    This creates another bias, and while the findings of the research may be true, the conclusions should read: “People who view themselves as wealthy…”
    Emphasis on the words “view themselves as”. Therefore, perceived wealth may lead to more unethical behaviour. Which means that people who aren’t objectively wealthy may act unethically, due to their perceived social status.
    So what causes unethical behaviour then, is it really wealth, or is it a perception of higher status?
    In my mind, perception of higher status does encourage people to be more unethical. However, that does not imply that money or wealth will bring the same result.
    Which brings me to my point that there is a class war going on, perpetrated by many people who stand to benefit from hatred between social classes (divide and conquer and all that jazz).
    I see and hear this crap all the time, and I’m really sick of it. Now “science” proves that wealthy people are dicks and we should all hate them…just because they’re wealthy.
    That’s what I’m having a huge problem with.

  • Sylvia McCart

    “Wealthy Drivers More Likely To Break Traffic Rules” this kind of thing is very coomon, it is because wealthy people will have to flaunt their expensive automobile and most likely they are the one who will break traffic rules. car accident lawyer orlando

  • http://twitter.com/pummkin Pamela Lim

    See the Ferrari crashing into a taxi in Singapore, killing the taxi driver, passenger & the Ferrari driver himself. http://youtu.be/8JfAaOABk4g

  • http://twitter.com/pummkin Pamela Lim

    See the Ferrari crashing into a taxi in Singapore, killing the taxi driver, passenger & the Ferrari driver himself. http://youtu.be/8JfAaOABk4g