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Wednesday, January 13, 1999 Published at 18:35 GMT


Rude White Van Man 'a myth'

White Van Man still drives some round the bend

Van drivers - once maligned as a menace of the roads - are actually polite and respectful, says a new report.

The BBC's Alicia Arce reports on the cleaning up of a tarnished image
'White Van Man' became a term for rude and reckless drivers of white transit vans after it was apparently coined by a radio presenter in 1997.

But a report commissioned by Renault UK for the Oxford-based Social Issues Research Centre, seeks to explode what it calls this "modern myth".

[ image: Tailgate Charlies: White Van Man has been attacked for being rude]
Tailgate Charlies: White Van Man has been attacked for being rude
The authors of the report say that as with many negative stereotypes, their research shows that the perception of White Van Man is a "gross caricature of reality."

The radio presenter was it seems, reflecting a popular perception that White Van Man is much more aggressive and discourteous than other drivers.

But many motorists said so-called White Van Man still drives them to distraction.

'Chauvanist pigs'

One driver told the BBC: "They come right up behind you from behind and flash at you if you don't move out of the way."

Another said: "They tend to be on the whole chauvanist pigs that don't look out for cars and pull out at every opportunity."

The research team spoke to around 200 van drivers in petrol stations, lay-bys and service stations around the country.

And they argue that while White Van Man may exist, he is only a tiny percentage of van drivers. The true picture they suggest is of a sociable individual who rarely drinks during the week, and who is is respectful of other road users.

Warmth and humanity

The humble white van driver even wins approval it seems from those behind the wheel of emergency services' vehicles. They are said to regard White Van Man as being the most road-aware and the first to pull off the road when an ambulance or fire engine sounds its siren.

The study also mentions - apparently as an indication of the drivers' real warmth and humanity - that they are more likely than not to own and care for a pet.

It adds, more realistically perhaps, that given today's road conditions and workloads "it is no surprise that some van drivers appear to be in a perpetual hurry: they are".

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