Jul 212011

Many years ago it was illegal in most jurisdictions for a motor vehicle’s windows to be tinted dark. As I recall, the reason was because it reduced the driver’s visibility. Might also have been because it impeded the policeman’s (yes, at the time almost exclusively men) ability to identify the driver and/or passenger load. Only long stretch limosines had the privacy of smokey windows–and only for the passenger area.

Memory is a funny thing as any psychologist will tell you. So it is with full admission that my recollection of much more civilized roadways could be a bit mythologized. That said, back then it seems that fewer drivers were outright, self-absorbed, unrepentant assholes wielding three tons of steel like an inflatable baseball bat. Even in only my (ahem) 30-years behind the wheel, i’ve observed and occasionally participated in the clear degradation of onroad civility. And because of my sheltered existence (i.e., not LA), I’ve experienced true road rage only once or twice. I’m referring only to the run of the mill lack of civility and acceptance that the rules of the road APPLY TO YOU TOO SHIT-HEAD that manifest in not just simple speeding but utterly cavalier disregard for any explicit meaning in the yellow lines (Yes, a solid line on your side means NO PASSING. This is the law, not a suggestion.), complete ignorance of the fact that you DO NOT deserve to be let in from the merge lane just because you’re there (Please spare me the crap too, you knew it was coming.) or into the single lane of reduced traffic after having sped along the open lane that ends just because you’re there (What are you more important than everyone else?  Didn’t you notice the big line-up?), willful intent to occupy two parking spaces in an otherwise full lot–or better yet, pull into a spot that somebody else is obviously waiting to get into, riding the bumper of the car in front of you at 120km/hr or darting into a gap of one car length between cars moving 100km/hr, or swinging radically across three lanes of traffic in the pouring rain, or text while driving (that, too, is illegal by the way).  I could go on.

The only really good thing that happens is that occasionally one of these narcissistic imbeciles removes his or her chromosomes from the gene pool.  Unfortunately, too often, with that closure of the line other innocent DNA ends too.

Anyway, with that set-up out of the way, here’s my thesis, which might actually be an interesting MA dissertation.  I believe that there is a direct correlation between tinted car windows and whether or not the driver is a douche bag.  It should be tested; I’m not sure how.  My contention is that, like on the Internet, where people remain anonymous or hidden behind “cute” aliases, behind the protective cover of tinted windows, drivers lose their inhibitions.  People do things online that they would never consider doing if the light of day were on them and others could see and judge.  Same goes on the road:  I bet that there is an anonymity effect at work that is the direct result of dark windows on cars–especially the “compensatory” muscle cars and Hummers.

1.  If you know of research or other opinion on this, put a comment and link to it.  Or, if you have a friend that needs to select a behavioural science thesis topic, feel free to pass this on.  It feels like a good one.

2.  Call your provincial or state representative and insist that window tinting on automobiles be restricted to the passenger compartment of livery vehicles and the Suburbans carrying Secret Service in the presidential motorcade.  (Who needs to see those guys anyway?)

 Posted by on 21 Jul 2011

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