So say two now-classic studies, a 2015 poll by PEMCO Insurance and a 2008 study by researchers at Colorado State University. Their upshot? To improve safety for yourself and your passengers, wipe your bumper clean (more below on how to do that without ruining your car’s finish). And if you see a car covered in bumper stickers? Best to give it a little extra following distance.
The PEMCO Poll, which surveyed 1,200 drivers in Washington and Oregon, found that about 20% of respondents admitted they change their driving behavior depending on how they feel about a bumper sticker’s message. If they agree with a bumper sticker’s sentiments, 21% said they’d be more polite, perhaps opening up a space for that car to merge into their lane; disagree, and 18% said they’d be less courteous. Drivers under age 35 were the most reactive to bumper stickers. In separate research during the heated 2016 elections, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii noted that political bumper stickers increased a car’s risk for both road rage and vandalism while parked.
The study at Colorado State University found that the more bumper stickers a car had, the more likely its driver would behave aggressively toward others. The researchers referred to the stickers as “territorial markers,” meaning drivers had a strong sense of personal space connected to their cars and their place on the roadway. They observed that road rage incidents were 16% higher among drivers with multiple bumper stickers than those without. Study authors said the correlation between the number of “territory markers” and road rage was a stronger predictor of aggressive behavior than vehicle value or condition. The content of the bumper stickers didn’t matter.
How to safely remove a bumper sticker
Having a clean bumper helps ensure a no-drama drive. The Seattle Times shared five DIY ways to rid your car of an unwanted sticker. Our favorite: that can of WD-40 you likely already have in the garage. To remove the sticker, put on safety goggles and gloves, saturate the sticker with WD-40, let it soak for a few minutes and gently scrape off the paper bits with an old spatula or credit card. Vinegar works, too, although it may take a bit more patience. With either method, use a little soap and water or rubbing alcohol to polish off the last of any adhesive residue.
Want more tips like these? Check out PEMCO: 10 DIY car maintenance tasks you can tackle | PEMCO
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