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Why the VW Beetle is the serial killers' car of choice; Drivers buying the new `03' reg cars out today probably don't know what their choice can tell us about their personality traits.

Byline: CONRAD KING

WE HAVE all done it at some time - guessed the type of driver of the car in our rear view mirror.

Then, when it overtakes, we get a glimpse of the driver and smugly notice that we got it right through a bit of "social profiling".

A car driving a little bit too close behind and trying to overtake? Some young tearaway.

A slow-moving car holding everything up? An elderly driver.

Dithering at a roundabout? It must be a woman.

Stuck in the outside lane of the motorway flashing their headlights? Sales rep.

While politically correct souls might start yelling "stereotyping", working out who is driving different types of cars and what it says about them is probably closer to psychological profiling.

The FBI now include the types of cars that they expect offenders to drive when they draw up profiles.

In the 1970s, the serial killer car of choice was the VW Beetle, with Ted Bundy among the infamous fans since it was Hitler's concept car.

More recently, the FBI have found that "disorganised" killers tend to drive mini-vans, while organised offenders drive large saloon cars, coloured either blue or white, that mimic law enforcement vehicles.

Colour choice is actually a fairly good place to start looking for clues to the personality of drivers.

Research conducted by the RAC Foundation found that, in general, different colour choices reflected different personalities.

Drivers of red cars were more likely to be creative. Those who chose blue were more socially responsible.

Black was an indication of ambition, green showed a conservative outlook, while drivers of white cars tended to be highly organised.

The most unfortunate colours were light pastel shades or very bright yellows and oranges. The drivers of these types of cars were three times more likely to have suffered from depression than the drivers of blue cars and were four times more likely to be the victims of road rage.

Silver and metallic blue cars tend to belong to people who are most content with their lives.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. People buying cars second- hand may not have as much choice in colour as if they buy new.

When it comes to the types of cars that people choose, things are more complicated.

Drivers of small frugal super-minis may be former hippies who are worried about dolphins and acid rain, but they might equally be young tearaways who can't afford the insurance on a high performance car.

Cars can tell us what people are like, or what they would like to be like.

Someone might own a large off-roader because they spend a lot of time off- road driving.

Give it a covering of mud and a mad collie in the back and you don't need to be Einstein to work out that it belongs to a farmer.

An identical 4x4 gleaming at a kerbside in the suburbs may belong to someone who likes to think of themselves as adventurous despite the fact that their tyres never leave the tarmac.

Perhaps the owner is a timid driver - an insecure city dweller who wants to be Lawrence of Arabia but is scared of getting bumped by a Nissan Micra. A balding man in a sports car always causes sniggers as it's easy to assume he's bought it as a reaction to some mid- life crisis and reduction in virility.

However, it might just as easily be the case that he's one of the middle- aged folks, both men and women, who are running around in flash open- top cars because they have a bit of money after raising families and making sacrifices for years.

Sure, in general, younger drivers tend to like faster cars, but paying a mortgage, having kids and towing a caravan all tend to make it very difficult to stump up the money for a car that is more indulgence than practicality.

Those folks trying to be young again, or rewarding themselves are quite different form the drivers of certain sporting prestige models.

While Volvo and Saab have traditionally been safe cars, models like the 155mph Volvo T5 and 200bhp-plus Saab Convertible are ideal for folk who want to have their cake and eat it.

They can have sports car looks and performance, but not have to worry whether their cars are thought of as reckless and selfish.

The way that we treat our cars, however, does tell others a lot about what we are like. If the slightest bit of dirt on the paint- work has to be wiped away and the ashtray never gets a chance to be full, then the owners is going to be a bit of an obsessive control freak.

If the car is a complete tip, filled with empty Coke cans and cigarette packets then the owner would really like you to think that it is driven by some kind of creative genius who is just expressing themselves. Naah, the most likely explanation is that the car is owned by a bit of a slob.

Most folks would be between those extremes and it's the majority of motorists who are the hardest to identify when out on the roads.

But one thing is for sure, no matter what type of car other people are driving, if something goes wrong, it's always somebody else's fault.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Words:890
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