Results of a 2011 survey conducted on behalf of car insurer AAMI suggest small-car syndrome is alive and thriving on Australian roads.
The online survey, conducted independently in 2011 on behalf of AAMI by Newspoll Market & Social Research, found that drivers of small cars “are more likely to use aggressive or reckless tactics” on the road, with one possibility suggesting that the behaviour is an attempt to “compensate for the limited size of their car.”
The data was collected from 3740 drivers aged 18 years or more, across all states and territories. 328 of the participants drove a small two or three-door car, while 2384 drove a larger car. The results were weighted in line with current ABS population demographics to help ensure the results were representative of age, sex and region.
According to David Skapinker from AAMI corporate affairs, the trend towards smaller cars brought about by the rising costs of motoring is bringing the issue increasingly into the spotlight.
“It’s worrying if people feel the need to overcompensate for their smaller assets by displaying risky driving behaviours. Drivers of small cars are significantly more likely to gesture rudely and deliver a mouthful of verbal abuse towards another driver, and they’re also significantly more likely to tailgate than drivers of larger cars.
“We’ve all seen them on the road, the little hatch or small sedan, darting in and out of traffic and getting upset when another driver either takes them to task on their conduct or for simply driving at the speed limit,”
The research also found that gender played a part. Findings indicated that “young female drivers may be the most likely to display symptoms of small car syndrome as the highest proportion of small car drivers are females aged 18 – 24 years.”
Perhaps even more worrying, the survey found that small car drivers are also more likely to “take part in reckless driving behaviours such as driving after taking illegal drugs, using their mobile to check e-mails and sending or reading a text while they’re driving.”
The survey found that 75 per cent of small car drivers admitted to sometimes driving dangerously, as compared to 67 per cent for large-car drivers.
Although most drivers will not be surprised at the findings in the survey, aggressive small-car driving is far from new. Although no data exists today, circumstantial evidence suggests Volkswagen Beetle drivers from the 1960s behaved with often unwanted confidence in tight traffic situations, probably because of the car’s then-nimble handling and peppy acceleration. The Beetle’s rival, the tiny but nimble Morris 850, invited similar driving behaviour.