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How Common Is Road Rage?

A new survey suggests that there are more aggressive drivers than ever

It's something every driver dreads but can't avoid completely.

We're all familiar with "road rage," whether by personal experience or through stories heard from people we know. First coined in the 1980s following a rash of highway shootings in California, the term "road rage" has taken on a life of its own in describing any kind of aggressive or angry behaviour by a driver towards people in other vehicles.

Ranging from rude gestures to dangerous driving practices that are actually life-threatening, road rage can lead to physical confrontations, assault, and even death. Police statistics show 1,200 cases of road rage reported each year across the United States but these are typically the most severe examples which say little about how often it really occurs.

But a new research study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that road rage is far more common than you might think. The study, which is available on the foundation's webpage, presents the results of an 2014 online survey involving 2,705 licensed drivers over the age of 16. According to the survey, 78 percent of participating drivers reported engaging in at least one kind of aggressive driving behaviour in the previous year. Some of the most common examples are:

  • Intentional tailgating (51 percent)
  • Yelling at another driver (47 percent)
  • Honking to show annoyance (45 percent)
  • Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes (24 percent)
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose (12 percent)
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver (4 percent)
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose (3 percent)

As you might expect, aggressive driving behaviour varies with age and gender. Drivers aged 25-39 were most likely to report tailgating, yelling, honking, gesturing, cutting off, and exiting to confront while drivers aged 19-24 were most likely to report trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes and bumping or ramming. Male drivers were far more likely than female drivers to engage in all of the aggressive behaviours examined in the survey. Nearly two in three drivers surveyed believed that road rage was a greater problem now than it was three years ago while nine out of ten drivers believed that aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their personal safety.

"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."

To combat road rage, AAA offers these helpful tips:

  1. Don't offend - don't engage in any behaviour that might provoke another driver to change their speed or direction. That includes cutting off another driver or forcing them to use their brakes.
  2. Be tolerant and forgiving - everyone has bad days and whatever the other driver has done should not be taken personally.
  3. Do not respond - avoid eye contact, don't make gestures, never exit your vehicle, and be prepared to contact emergency services if necessary.

“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. “Don’t risk escalating a frustrating situation because you never know what the other driver might do. Maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching your destination safely.”

For more information