Less Driving = Nicer Driving?

Word came down yesterday that Portland has ranked in a survey as having the most courteous drivers in the country.

A piece I heard on OPB opined that this was because we had shorter commutes and were thus less frustrated. Let me take that a step further and hypothesize a link from have having lower VMT per capita (or that VMT per capita is level or decreasing) makes us happier and less confrontational on the roads (I admit to having no data to support this hypothesis).

What do we think? Is the rain, something in the water? Is it driving less?

6 responses to “Less Driving = Nicer Driving?”

  1. Chris,

    I think people here are more congenial toward each other in general and that would extend to their driving also. I don’t think mass transit has anything to do with it.


  2. I wonder what the results would be if the same survey was applied to the behavior of bicyclists: How courteous are they to pedestrians on shared routes, people in crosswalks, motorists, etc? Do they abide by all traffic laws, stop at stop signs and obey traffic signals? Do they ride responsibility downtown not weaving in and out of other traffic and never squeeze between and pass cars on the white line lane markers?

  3. Congratulations, Portland!

    I am curious, though — we’re at #1 for 2007, yet for 2006, we didn’t even make the top 5.

    What could have possibly changed within one year that would have catapulted us all the way to the top?

    Or did we just, like, cut somebody off? ;-)

    Seriously, it does make me question the methodology…

  4. Garlynn,

    Portland wasn’t included on the survey prior to 2007, hence why you don’t see Portland’s rating in prior years.

    This PDF link I’ve posted below gives you the methodology, along with the full results of the survey.


    I’ve only given the report a cursorary glance, so won’t defend it’s findings. However, the report does indicate that younger drivers and those with the longest commutes are most likely to engage in road rage as a response to the driving habits of others.

    I would also think that Greg is right. I do think that cuturally speaking, Portlander’s are more congenial to each other in general, and that would logically extend to matters like driving.

    However, I also do believe that our congenial and relaxed culture is a direct result of the community oriented government, planning, and subsequent physical structure of our city. We, as citizens, are not as socially, culturally, or physically isolated from each other as citizens are in other similar sized cities. I don’t believe that isolation breeds civility, but rather the opposite.

    Internet blogs are a good example of this. It’s a popularily accepted notion that people will post comments from the isolation and anononymity of their computer that is far more inflammatory, rude, or generally lacking in civility than if that said person was actually physically talking with a group of people. I believe cultural and community isolation is a natural extension of this phenomenon.

  5. Dan-

    Thanks for the link and the confirmation. I had looked at their website, but didn’t find that .pdf file. That *definitely* explains it. Will be interesting to see how long/if Portland holds the title in the coming survey years?

    I can’t find a reference for it on the internet, but back in the late 1990s there was a study of civility across the nation, and Portland ranked as the #1 nicest city in that study as well, against all other large cities. It was a bit more subjective — they did things like walk down a sidewalk downtown, and then drop a big pile of books and see if people would stop to help them pick them up, and if so, how long it took. Still, if they used the same methodology, you would expect the results to be meaningful.

    So yes, Portland is the nicest city around, and this niceness probably does have a direct correlation to behaviour on the roadways. After all, cars are just vehicles for the people within them.

  6. I’d put any amount of money that the correlation between “how courteous are the drivers” and “how courteous are the people” is much, much stronger than the link to VMT/capita.

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