Caution: Millions of U.S. Drivers Are Angry, Aggressive or Enraged!

July 15, 2016

Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.

“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jurek Grabowski, director of Research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”

A significant number of U.S. drivers reported engaging in angry and aggressive behaviors over the past year, according to the study’s estimates:

  • Purposefully tailgating: 51 percent (104 million drivers)
  • Yelling at another driver: 47 percent (95 million drivers)
  • Honking to show annoyance or anger: 45 percent (91 million drivers)
  • Making angry gestures: 33 percent (67 million drivers)
  • Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes: 24 percent (49 million drivers)
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose: 12 percent (24 million drivers)
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver: 4 percent (7.6 million drivers)
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose: 3 percent (5.7 million drivers)

Nearly 2 in 3 drivers believe that aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago, while nine out of 10 believe aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their personal safety.

The data was collected from a national survey of 2,705 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days.

Extreme Behaviors

While only a small proportion of drivers reported more extreme behaviors that might be considered road rage, (such as getting out of their vehicle to confront another driver or bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose), AAA says the results suggest that a substantial number of drivers may engage in these behaviors.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were approximately 214 million licensed drivers in the United States in 2014. After accounting for the 4.5 percent of licensed drivers who reported not driving in the past 30 days, 2.8 percent or 5.7 million of drivers reported that they had bumped or rammed another vehicle on purpose at least once in the past year. Similarly, 3.7 percent of drivers, or 7.6 million, reported having gotten out of their vehicle to confront another driver at least once in the past year. In total, an estimated 3.9 percent of all drivers, or approximately 8.0 million drivers, reported having engaged in either or both of these behaviors at least once.

According to AAA researchers, drivers may under-report engaging in aggressive driving behaviors due to social desirability bias and thus the true prevalence may be even higher than the estimates reported.

Males More Likely

Aggressive driving and road rage varied by gender, geography and other factors.

Male and younger drivers ages 19-39 were significantly more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors. For example, male drivers were more than three times as likely as female drivers to have gotten out of a vehicle to confront another driver or rammed another vehicle on purpose.

Drivers living in the Northeast were significantly more likely to yell, honk or gesture angrily than people living in other parts of the country. For example, drivers in the Northeast were nearly 30 percent more likely to have made an angry gesture than drivers in other parts of the country.

Drivers who reported other unsafe behaviors behind the wheel, such as speeding and running red lights, also were more likely to show aggression. For example, drivers who reported speeding on a freeway in the past month were four times more likely to have cut off another vehicle on purpose.

“It’s completely normal for drivers to experience anger behind the wheel, but we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research.

AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:

  • Don’t Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and contact 9-1-1 if needed.

Have a safe trip.

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