The bulk of the research that seeks to understand driving behavior and decision making has been performed by behavioral psychologists and engineers. These studies have a tendency to focus on the individual driver, examining such topics as road and vehicle design, cognitive skills, and the effects of collisions on the human body. This disparate research has produced a wealth of knowledge but with little unifying theory. The act of driving occurs within social environments that exist at many levels; the same act can be viewed through multiple lenses. In its exploration of the social context, this paper moves from an analysis of the global scale to the regional to the local. Our roads are monitored by police services and illegal acts are punished by judicial systems; these social institutions attempt to modify behavior through punitive measures. These punitive measures are derived from social theories of deviance and deterrence, methods shown here to be flawed. Empirical data derived from observations in Al Ain, UAE, are used in a quasi-experimental design that describes how drivers alter their choice of speed based on their observations of other drivers. This paper concludes by suggesting that, both by examining and legislating for driver behavior, there is a pressing need to situate the driver within his/her social environment.
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