By Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Are Bumper Stickers a Sign of Individual Personality or Possessive Territoriality?

Submitted by: Marcus Trumper

Bumper stickers have long been a source of fun or a way to make a political or social statement, however what you are sticking to your car may be saying a great deal more about you as a person then simply your preference to “Make Love Not War”. There is now a direct causal link between bumper stickers placed on a driver’s vehicle, and their propensity to be engaged in a road rage incident. The American Automobile Association (AAA) found that there were 12,000 injuries and 200 fatalities due to road rage back in 1995. By 2008, these troubling statistics had risen to 25,000 injuries and 370 fatalities but, AAA also note that many more road rage incidents simply go unreported.
A research team at Colorado State University lead by psychologist, William Szlemko performed a study focusing upon the increased number of vehicles on US roads. Larger numbers of vehicles and drivers means less space, and as is common with many other species, competition for space leads to territoriality and enhanced aggressiveness.
Hundreds of volunteer drivers were questioned, both about their driving habits and the vehicles they drove, including the degree to which they had “customized” or “personalized” their ride. Personalization included using furry dice hanging from the rear-view mirror and other dashboard and interior decoration together with placing bumper stickers, custom paint work and even what kind of stereo they had fitted.
The findings were clear: 16% of those who engaged in personalization of their ride were more prone to commit acts of road rage.
The researchers found that customization markers, such as bumper stickers were actually signs of territorial possession. The greater the degree of personalization, the more territorial the driver and therefore, the greater the likelihood they would engage in aggressive and violent behavior.
It does not matter that the vehicle is itself moving, it is the relative encroachment or interference with driving activity, which acts as the cue for increasingly aggressive territorial behavorial responses from drivers. Drivers are animals too, and they will actively protect space or a possession they have become attached too – those who use, for instance a bumper sticker, demonstrate a closer, personal link to their vehicle and are more prone to respond accordingly.
Szlemko observes there is an apparent disconnect between drivers who are in what they consider a “private space”, but are in fact within the “public” arena. He further states that drivers are displaying aggressive behavior because they forget they are not in a private setting, but on public highways. Perceived infractions don’t simply include driving too close or making intersecting maneuvers but also include, driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to use turn signals and simply looking at the other driver or their passengers.
With the correlation between bumper stickers and road rage so effectively demonstrated, the next time you feel the urge to tail gate in order to be able to read the “Peace” sticker on the back of the car in front, maybe you will be wise to check whether there is a gun rack in the back!
Mark Trumper is president of Maverick Label, a leading provider of bumper stickers.
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