Road rage is a term used to label any aggressive behaviors utilized by one driver towards another. Road rage could include yelling, aggressive gestures, honking profusely, and even following too closely or cutting off another driver (when combined with other behaviors). Unfortunately, road rage also can turn violent, leading to death or injury of drivers and their passengers.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), traffic can amplify anger and stress and also can lead to road rage (as can “displaced anger”). While some factors can make an individual more prone to raging during the drive, the incidents of road rage are increasing. These road rage statistics show the rise of violence on the road and why drivers need to be aware of this growing trend.
Aggressive Driving has Escalated to Rage
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the label ‘aggressive driving’ started in the 1990s and referred to driving behaviors like speeding, following close, weaving through traffic, etc. The NHTSA explains that these aggressive tendencies are sometimes heightened to include gestures, yelling and other behaviors toward other drivers.
Aggressive driving, however, is different from road rage. Aggressive behaviors can be deemed threatening or even worrisome to other drivers, but ‘road rage’ takes aggression to a dangerous level. Road rage has become headline news, but is it on the rise?
The NHTSA explains that data related to crashes and deaths on the road might not support the allegation that road rage is becoming quite as prominent as news sources might lead the public to believe. According to the NHTSA, which used crash data statistics to compare to claims about the rise of road rage, “The crash data suggest that road rage is a relatively small traffic safety problem, despite the volume of news accounts and the general salience of the issue.”
While the NHTSA posits that road rage might not be as problematic as drivers might assume, the worry about violence on the road still has some drivers on guard. In addition, statistics related to road rage incidents might further stoke the fear of on-the-road victimization.
Road Rage Stats
The exact number of road rage incidents might never be fully revealed; some drivers don’t file a report. Some drivers also might define true road rage differently than other drivers. For example, road rage for one driver might be inclusive of rude gestures, but others might feel that road rage must correlate to a violent or threatening act.
Numerous stats on road rage incidents are available that can paint a better picture of this problem. AAA Foundation’s Annual Traffic Safety Culture Index found that many drivers engaged in aggressive behaviors on the road. The Safety Culture Index revealed that:
- 32 percent of drivers honked at or made gestures at other drivers
- Nearly half of drivers exceeded the highway speed limit by 15 MPH (48 percent or 106 million drivers)
- One quarter of drivers drove faster when another car tried to pass them (55 million drivers)
- More than one-third (34 percent) of drivers drove closer to the car in front of them to prohibit another car from merging
While these acts are deemed aggressive, are they true road rage? What about acts on the road that lead to violence? AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted a study that analyzed 10,000 road rage incidents over a seven-year period; 12,610 injuries and 218 murders correlated with these incidents. The report from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that included these figures is now about a decade old. Has anything changed?
Bankrate published an article focused on 2022 statistics related to road rage. The site however referred back to the statistics from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that detailed the murders and injuries that were tied to road rage incidents. However, Bankrate also noted that 2021 had the highest number of deaths related to road rage; on average, 44 people were killed or injured each month.
The violence was tied to guns carried in vehicles. Bankrate reported that “…Road rage deaths due to gun violence have doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels.”
More than Half of Drivers Carry a Weapon in Their Car
According to stats published by Circuit Route Planner, 65 percent (almost two out of three) of drivers keep a weapon in their car for self-defense. Half of the respondents to Circuit Route Planner’s survey admitted to keeping a knife in their car, 45 percent carried pepper spray, 40 percent kept a firearm, 39 percent had a tire iron and 38 percent stashed a baseball bat in their car. Other ‘weapons’ included hockey sticks, a taser and lacrosse sticks.
Drivers also fessed up to their bad habits while driving, and while some (like dancing or singing) weren’t really raging behaviors, one admission was a bit more shocking. Of the 1,000 individuals polled, four percent admitted to “brandishing a weapon.”
How to Calm Down on the Road
Some days are extremely stressful. Drivers on their way home after a long day might feel ready to explode; they also might just be exhausted and ready to curl up on the couch and watch a favorite show. Each person might handle stress differently; some might lash out, others might practice calming exercises or even internalize their anger.
For some individuals, driving brings out their worst and most aggressive side. When another driver is cutting you off, following too close or simply driving too slow, their annoying behavior might cause another driver to simply lose it. However, ‘losing it’ on the road isn’t worth the risk or the consequences. Whether ‘losing it’ entails trying to pressure or intimidate another driver via hand gestures, honking or another aggressive tendency, these behaviors could cause the other driver to act out in return or even result in a life-altering accident that could injure or kill you or another individual.
Instead of feeling like a pressure cooker on the road, drivers can take a few steps to cool off behind the wheel and help prevent feeling the heat of anger:
- Listen to calming music
- Focus on breathing
- Consider that the other driver might have simply made an error (it wasn’t personal)
- Thinking through every driving decision
Everyone can get angry. Traffic can be frustrating. Other drivers sometimes make errors on the road, others just aren’t great drivers. If the day was stressful, individuals can try taking a walk to unwind before they get in their car. Make a phone call to a friend or loved one to try to get in a better mood, too.
Listening to calming music also can help calm the mind. Focus on breathing also helps the body to relax and not feel so stressed (or angry). Keeping a calm approach while on the road also can be beneficial; that other driver might not have been trying to be rude or aggressive. Let it go.
How to Handle Road Rage
Keeping anger and emotions in check can make the drive more peaceful and relaxing. However, other drivers might try to intimidate others with fear or the threat of violence. What should drivers do if another driver is acting out on the road?
- Let the car pass (don’t respond aggressively)
- Don’t get aggressive (don’t follow closely or fail to let another car merge)
- Don’t make eye contact and engage with the aggressor
- Refrain from honking or making any gesture
Try to stay calm and collected. However, sometimes a driver can become aggressive to the point that it makes the other driver fearful. Always have a cell phone close by; if a call can be placed by voice command call 911 for help.
In addition, drivers who feel threatened can drive to a public place like a police station. Progressive recommends that drivers not go home; the other aggressive driver could follow there. Progressive also explains that if the individual gets out of their car, honks the horn or engages the car alarm.
Be a Courteous Driver
While stats might never fully capture the exact number of road rage incidents since some of them are not reported, all drivers can fight against this violent shift of aggressive driving behaviors by remembering to stay calm during the drive. Don’t act aggressively towards other drivers; don’t follow too closely, cut off another driver, speed up so the driver can’t pass or make rude gestures and honk.
Aggressive driving can bring out the worst in others. Some road rage incidents turn fatal. If a driver feels threatened on the road, contact the authorities and/or drive to a safe place. Don’t go home as the aggressor could follow. If the individual gets out of their car and makes contact, honk or use a car alarm.
Drivers also should know that a small percentage of drivers surveyed admitted to showing a weapon, and many drivers now keep a weapon in their car for self-defense. An individual only has control of their own actions; on the road, be respectful to others. Aggressive driving can escalate; don’t risk anyone’s life or your own by engaging with aggressive drivers or acting out in a fit of anger.