Opinion: Don’t put bumper stickers on your car

Audi A4 with bumper stickers

Apparently bumper stickers are an accurate predictor of whether you’re likely to lamp someone who cuts you off in traffic.

Stop reading now if the back of your car is mummified with stick-on wisdom – no, seriously, stop reading, in case you get triggered and come after me with a tyre-iron, you crazed loon – but according to the psychologists at Colorado State University, the theory goes like this:

Humans are territorial animals, even though for us modern animals that territory may only extend a few feet from where we’re standing. But for some people, their cars become an extension of their territory.

I hate bumper stickersPeople who have a strong sense that their entire vehicle is part of their personal space are more likely to be road-ragers than those whose personal space only goes as far as the steering wheel.

And bumper stickers are apparently strong indicators of territorial feelings about your car.

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And apparently it doesn’t matter what the stickers say – the fact that you have them is the indicator of the animal territorial urge, not the content.

So the “Baby On Board” woman? Psycho. Mr “Magic Happens”? Psycho. Old “Honk if you love Jesus” over there? Psycho.

The thing is, it seems to me that bumper stickers are the novelty T-shirts of the car world – a simple logo signifies one thing, a zany one signifies something very different, but all them are saying “Look at me”.

 
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have bumper stickers, or wear T-shirts, but I think a Venn diagram of the two types of people would look a lot more like a perfect circle than Katy Perry’s sternum.

You don’t see a lot of bumper stickers on cars driven by people wearing suits. In fact, when you’re talking about more expensive cars, bumper stickers are less like T-shirts and more like the facial tattoos of the car world.

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And – no offence, Mr Tyson – facial tattoos are rarely a sign of a calm, unflappable mind. As someone wrote on Reddit: “Even if I agree with your bumper sticker, I still think less of you for having a bumper sticker.”

Which is why it’s maybe misleading to do a study just of people with bumper stickers. I’m pretty territorial about my car, and I don’t have any bumper stickers – hell, I’d take the number plates off if I could get away with it. 

I bet Jesus would have used his turn signalsI reckon there’s other indicators that someone is territorial about their car. Like, say, when you see a car that’s spotlessly clean, or customised or modified – that’s the car that you take extra car wheeling your shopping trolley past. Especially if the owner is wearing a novelty T-shirt and has a face tattoo.

For the record, I don’t think road rage is always a bad thing. I mean, dragging someone out of their car and beating them with a tire iron is a bad thing (apparently, according to my parole officer), but I think road rage – well, road irritation – is a sign of optimistic expectations.

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I get frustrated at other drivers because I believe they can do better – really, I think it makes me a humanitarian. I’m surprised the Nobel committee hasn’t contacted me, the way I shout encouragement out my window when some numpty stops across the intersection. And I don’t have any bumper stickers or face tattoos.

Although I do mark my scent on the gutter when I park. That’s probably a clue.

 

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