Hyperactive Drivers

"What in the world are you doing?" you've probably asked as a careless driver cut you off, turned in front of you (without signaling) or committed some other potentially disastrous act.

According to a just-released survey, a high percentage of drivers are preoccupied with many other things while driving. In this age of multi-tasking, the much-derided on-the-cell-phone-driver is just the tip of the iceberg. People are engaging in a wide variety of mundane to unmentionable things behind the wheels of their cars.

Topping the charts of other-than-driving-while-driving activities is eating. The study, funded by Progressive Auto Insurance, found that 69 percent of drivers slam down chow while they drive. Compared with the rampant munchers, cell phone users are relatively rare. Just 44 percent of drivers admit to using a cell phone. Of course, the survey didn't note that 100 percent of drivers eat, while a much smaller percentage of drivers own cell phones.

The other distractions that interfere with safe driving: Approximately 12 percent of drivers surveyed admit to shaving or applying makeup, and seven percent of drivers read a book or newspaper. According to the report, 46 percent of respondents reported expressing their anger at other drivers. The survey found that women are more verbal (shouting or swearing) while men are more physical (naughty hand gestures).

Whether the driver is a soccer mom or a frazzled exec, SUV drivers are the champions of engaging in other pursuits while driving. Some 74 percent of SUV drivers admit they eat, a higher percentage than drivers of other types of vehicles. Not only do SUV drivers engage in furious fits of food consumption, they are also more likely to get furious. Sport utility vehicle owners, along with sports car drivers, shout and swear at other drivers more than other vehicle drivers.

In fact, SUV drivers seem to be very willing verbal communicators. They have a penchant for using cellular telephones: 60 percent of SUV owners use a cell phone, more than for any other type of vehicle.

When it comes to stereotypes, the survey did reinforce one commonly held opinion, namely minivans are mom-mobiles. Females are twice as likely than men to drive minivans. Lest you think these moms are particularly well adjusted, though, this does not seem to be the case. Though SUV and sports car owners are more likely to shout and swear at other drivers, minivan owners follow them closely. Perhaps to relieve their anger, these minivan drivers turn to food, because they are also as likely as SUV drivers to eat in their vehicles. At least they have good self-esteem, though. More than any other drivers, minivan owners are most likely to classify their car as "smart."

-- Tom Ripley

Tom Ripley knows all about anger at the wheel because he has owned several French cars. He observes the auto industry and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France.