Study Shows BMW Drivers Are The Rudest On The Road

Study Shows BMW Drivers Are The Rudest On The Road


Rude drivers come in all shapes and sizes, and they drive a wide variety of cars. We’ve been cut off by soccer moms in minivans, sound-blasted by bass-powered hoopties, and nearly t-boned by more muscle cars than we can count.  But for some reason, the rudest drivers on the road often seem to be those in luxury cars. Maybe that’s just us projecting: we see a nice car, and we feel a tinge of jealousy, which creates an instant dislike for the driver. Or perhaps it’s something we’ve picked up from movies: we see a Mercedes-Benz AMG zooming down the road and think, “Here comes another hedge-fund manager.” Or perhaps it’s because the wealthy people who drive those cars really are jerks. For folks who buy that last argument, there’s now a bit of proof to back it up. According to the New York Times, a paper published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the rich really do drive differently than the rest of us. The paper — entitled “Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior” — was written by Paul K. Piffa, Daniel M. Stancato, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, and Dacher Keltnera. The researchers carried out a total of seven separate studies, each of which looked at the linkage between affluence and altruism.Many of those studies involved participants who identified themselves as affluent or upper-class. The two studies focused on driving behavior, however, didn’t engage directly with participants, but instead observed drivers at various intersections. A drivers’ affluence was determined by the car she/he drove, which is, according to the study, a “reliable indicator of a person’s social rank and wealth”.

In the first study, observers stood at a four-way stop and noted how often drivers zipped into the intersection before it was their turn to go. In all, 12.4% did so.

In the second study, observers pretended to be pedestrians entering a crosswalk. (In California, where the study was carried out, drivers are required to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.) A very substantial 34.9 percent of drivers failed to yield to the observer/pedestrian.

In both cases, upper-class drivers — that is, drivers of luxury automobiles — were most likely to drive rudely, and in the second study, break the law.

Some of the study’s other findings:

Luxury car drivers were most prone to zoom through crosswalks, but every driver of a “beater” car — indicative of the lowest class level — followed the law and stopped for pedestrians.

Women were more likely to stop for pedestrians than men.

All drivers were more likely to stop for a female pedestrian than a male.

BMW drivers were the rudest on record.

Prius drivers were also fairly rude. (The Prius was considered a status model for the survey, given its standing in Southern California.)


AUGUST 12, 2013, 8:22 PM

The Rich Drive Differently, a Study Suggests


Jokes about BMW drivers being, on average, somewhat less than courteous are fairly common. They often run along the lines of, “Despite its good brakes, a BMW will usually stop with a jerk.” Sometimes the language is more colorful.

Now scientific research supports the unwritten and broadly circulated theory that people in BMWs are lacking in road manners. Paul K. Piff, a researcher at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at theUniversity of California, Berkeley, has conducted a study linking bad driving habits with wealth.

The traffic study, part of a larger body of research relating behavior and wealth, pitted pedestrians against passing motorists. It was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.

In California, where the study was conducted, state law requires motorists to stop at crosswalks when pedestrians are present, allowing them to cross the road. Mr. Piff said his team selected a specific crosswalk to observe, then had a pedestrian appear on the edge of the curb as a car approached. As the pedestrian stepped into the road, a researcher marked down the driver’s reaction to the pedestrian. This was done with 152 drivers.

The team also watched a four-way-stop intersection over a week, noting how likely drivers were to cut in front of others when it was not their turn to go. In their observation of 274 cars, the researchers found that the more expensive ones were more likely to jump their turns in the four-way rotation, Mr. Piff said.

In addition to describing drivers’ behavior in both locations, the researcher was to indicate the sex and age of each driver as well as the age and appearance of the cars, with a “1” signifying beat-up, low-value cars and a “5” given to top-of-the-line models from the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Mr. Piff said about eight of every 10 cars “did the right thing.”

“But you see this 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 beater-car category drove through the crosswalk. They always stopped for pedestrians.”

The study also found that male drivers were less likely to stop for pedestrians than were women, and that drivers of both sexes were more likely to stop for a female pedestrian than a male one.

“One of the most significant trends was that fancy cars were less likely to stop,” said Mr. Piff, adding, “BMW drivers were the worst.”

In the San Francisco Bay Area, where the hybrid gas-and-electric-powered Toyota Prius is considered a status symbol among the environmentally conscious, the researchers classified it as a premium model.

“In our higher-status vehicle category, Prius drivers had a higher tendency to commit infractions than most,” Mr. Piff said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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