- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2000

CHICAGO Hmm.
All these years writing about anti-lock brakes and traction control and air bags and all the things you need to equip your vehicle with before taking off on the highway when we should have been advising folks to pack the pizza and pop, shaving cream and razor, eye liner and rouge, latest John Grisham novel and a copy of "How to Swear in Six Different Languages."
Oh, and don't forget the cellular phone.
Sorry we've messed up.
The gaffe came to our attention when Progressive Auto Insurance sent out results of its survey on the driving habits of typical U.S. motorists. It questioned 30,000 drivers throughout the country and learned that:
Slightly more than two out of three motorists, or 69 percent, munch when behind the wheel, and that rises to 74 percent for sport utility vehicle and minivan drivers. Neither figure should be too surprising, considering it is difficult to travel three blocks in any direction without spotting a fast food drive-up window.
More than a fourth of all motorists, or 27 percent, shout or swear to express anger when driving; those 25 to 34 years old are most likely to shout or swear; and the majority of those who swear are women, not men, who resort to one-finger salutes. Most of those finger-wavers are 18- to 24-year-olds, while most (55 percent) of those 18-to 24-year-old finger-wavers also use a cell phone. Of course, that raises the question, if one hand is being used to wave a finger and the other is being used to hold your cell phone, how do you still manage to eat a pizza while driving?
Those shouters and swearers are most likely to be owners of SUVs and sports cars, followed by owners of minivans (soccer moms?); and most of those shouters and swearers (57 percent) use a cell phone when driving.
Almost half, or 44 percent, of all drivers use a cell phone while driving, but more than half, or 60 percent, of SUV drivers use a cell phone while motoring, perhaps to order more food to munch or to shout or swear long distance.
Of those who cut others off to express their anger, 58 percent use a cell phone while motoring.
Twelve percent of motorists apply makeup (one can only assume women) or shave (one can only hope the survey refers to men) while driving, and 7 percent read a book or newspaper. And while the survey didn't say so, they probably all use cell phones, don't you think?
Women are two times more likely to drive minivans than men, which may be why women swear so much.
It appears that common sense prevails with age, as 71 percent of all drivers 55 or older say they don't express anger at other drivers while behind the wheel and are the least likely to use a cell phone while driving.
The survey didn't ask whether older drivers who crawl along at 35 mph in the center lane while others zoom past at 60 mph feel responsible for causing others to get angry while driving and shout and swear and toss cold slices of pizza at them, but maybe that will be a question on next year's survey.

KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE NEWS

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