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Rich people are bad drivers, says study

Rich people are bad drivers, says study

It’s true: drivers of upmarket cars are rude and pushy. A study by Paul K. Piffa, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, has concluded that the negative stereotype about rich drivers is often correct.

A team of researchers observed the behaviour of drivers at a Californian pedestrian crossing and also a major intersection.

As cars approached the pedestrian crossing and the intersection, researchers noted each driver’s behaviour towards pedestrians and other motorists. The also noted the sex and age of the driver, together with the age and appearance of the cars.

According to the study, summarised in the New York Times, men were less likely to stop for pedestrians than women. The study also found that all drivers were more likely to stop for a female pedestrian than a male pedestrian.

Researchers noted that about 80% of motorists behaved courteously and obeyed the law. However, the 20% that did not behave courteously and obey the law were mainly people in expensive cars.

Researcher Paul K. Piffa comments that:

“[We saw a] huge boost in a driver’s likelihood to commit infractions in more expensive cars,” he said. “In our crosswalk study, none of the cars in the [old bomb]-car category drove through the crosswalk. They always stopped for pedestrians.”

However, says Piffa: “fancy cars were less likely to stop.”

Pitt says that BMW drivers were the worst offenders, but they weren’t alone.

Even upmarket versions of the Toyota Prius, which is often driven as an environmental status symbol in California, were less courteous drivers.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website, is not surprised by the study’s findings.

“Carmakers sell luxury cars by telling wealthy buyers that wealthy buyers are superior human beings, that they’re better than everyone else, that they have an entitlement to a superior lifestyle, even when this superior lifestyle hurts others.”

“It’s very dangerous to drive through the world believing that you don’t have to obey the same laws as everyone else. Luxury cars tend to be very safe, but it’s likely to be the poorer people who get hurt.”


Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

1. Paul K. Piffa,1,
3. Daniel M. Stancatoa,
5. Stéphane Côtéb,
7. Rodolfo Mendoza-Dentona, and
9. Dacher Keltnera
Author Affiliations

1. Edited* by Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, and approved January 26, 2012 (received for review November 8, 2011)

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.


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