Sharing social space with strangers: setting, signalling and policing informal rules of driving etiquette

Recent research suggests that aggressive driving may be influenced by driver perceptions of their interactions with other drivers in terms of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ behaviour. Drivers appear to take a moral standpoint on ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ driving behaviour. However, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the context of road use is not defined solely by legislation, but includes informal rules that are sometimes termed ‘driving etiquette’. Driving etiquette has implications for road safety and public safety since breaches of both formal and informal rules may result in moral judgement of others and subsequent behaviours designed to punish the ‘offender’ or ‘teach them a lesson’. This paper outlines qualitative research that was undertaken with drivers to explore their understanding of driving etiquette and how they reacted to other drivers’ observance or violation of their understanding. The aim was to develop an explanatory framework within which the relationships between driving etiquette and aggressive driving could be understood, specifically moral judgement of other drivers and punishment of their transgression of driving etiquette. Thematic analysis of focus groups (n=10) generated three main themes: (1) courtesy and reciprocity, and the notion of two-way responsibility, with examples of how expectations of courteous behaviour vary according to the traffic interaction; (2) acknowledgement and shared social experience: ‘giving the wave’; and (3) responses to breaches of the expectations/informal rules. The themes are discussed in terms of their roles in an explanatory framework of the informal rules of etiquette and how interactions between drivers can reinforce or weaken a driver’s understanding of driver etiquette and potentially lead to driving aggression.


  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: 11p
  • Monograph Title: Taking action together: 1st Australasian Road Safety Conference (ARSC2015), 14-16 October, Gold Coast, Queensland

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01591474
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB Group Ltd.
  • Files: ITRD, ATRI
  • Created Date: Feb 26 2016 9:27AM