Study shows hike in aggressiveness

An alarmingly high number of drivers, nearly eight in 10, admitted to significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel in the past year, according to a study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The 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 turn drivers into hotheads on the highway and lead to dangerous road rage,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Far too many motorists are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”

Aggressive driving is often manifested by driving at an unsafe speed. In Oklahoma last year, speeding was a factor in more than 9,900 crashes, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. February was the most dangerous month with 1,515 speed-related crashes, followed by December (1,045), November (918) and May (879). 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 ten believe aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their personal safety.

Aggressive driving and road rage varied considerably among drivers:

  • 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.

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

AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:

  • Don’t Offend: You can protect yourself by avoiding behaviors that can enrage other drivers. Examples include cutting off other drivers, driving slowly in the passing lane, tailgating, not using turn signals, honking horn excessively, and gesturing – whether obscene or not.
  • Do Not Respond: Refuse to be angry at an aggressive driver. Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, and maintain space around your vehicle. If you feel threatened, contact   9-1-1. Drive to a crowded public place such as a shopping center, hospital or police station.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Adjust Your Attitude – By changing your approach to driving, you can make every trip more pleasant:

For too many motorists, driving becomes a contest trying to get to their destination in the shortest possible time, so forget the need to “win the race.”

Allow yourself more time for your trip so you don’t feel rushed.

Practice relaxation tips such as deep breathing, or listen to soothing music or a book on tape. Also, don’t drive when extremely angry or overtired.

If you think you have a problem, seek help; the techniques used in anger management courses can also help angry drivers.

  • Alter Schedule to Avoid Traffic – If possible, adjust your work schedule so you are not driving during peak commute hours. If this is not possible, then at least avoid driving during high traffic times on your days off. The research report is available on the AAA Foundation’s website .