With all the inherent risks security drivers secure transportation service providers face on the road, there is probably none more so than road rage or aggressive driving. So, today we are talking all about road rage – what it is, how to avoid it, and some interesting statistics that show the impact of road rage.
Listen to the Podcast
What is Road Rage
Everyone has had a moment of frustration while driving. Whether it be due to traffic or the poor decisions of other drivers, that flash of anger can easily ruin our day. But for some, that anger lasts much longer than an instant and can lead to some disastrous consequences.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving is “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property,” while road rage is “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle or precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”
The American Automobile Association (AAA) indicates that road rage often starts over trivial things you honked your horn too much, or at all; you took (or wanted to take) a parking space someone else had their eye on. Or maybe you committed the “mortal sin” of slowing someone down, or inadvertently did something that wasn’t in the best interest of automotive safety cut someone off, zigzagged in and out of traffic, or tailgated because you were in a hurry, or just not paying attention.
About a third of crashes can be linked to road rage behaviors such as speeding, changing lanes without signaling, tailgating, and illegal maneuvers.
Some 95% of drivers say they observed road rage or aggressive driving in the past year, but only 64% of drivers admitted to doing it, according to a 2021 survey from the insurance comparison website The Zebra, that researches the driving community’s topics.
Nearly half of the drivers said that they’ve changed their driving habits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, while people may be driving less, they’re getting more frustrated with other drivers on the road than ever before. 1 in 5 drivers say they experience more frustration behind the wheel.
More than half of drivers (56%) said the highway/freeway is where they are most likely to experience frustration.
63% of drivers surveyed said distracted drivers cause them the most anger or frustration while on the road.
One very interesting statistic from the survey is that one in four drivers admits to keeping a weapon or safety device in their vehicle. While the survey doesn’t say exactly why drivers feel a need to travel “armed,” perhaps it’s in case they feel the need to protect themselves from another motorist.
For example, in Florida, 35% of drivers said they keep a weapon or safety device in their vehicle compared to 34% of California drivers and 28% of Texas drivers. In Florida, the most carried weapon is a gun versus pepper spray in Texas and a knife in California.
A 2006 study of aggressive drivers by researchers from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that drivers with a firearm in their vehicle may be more prone to anger, and more likely to engage in aggressive driving than those who did not have a gun. Across all demographics and regions, gun carriers were more likely to make obscene gestures at other drivers, aggressively follow them, or both, the study concluded.
Mary Vriniotis, a Harvard researcher who worked on the road rage study, said that drivers who feel slighted or endangered may feel they need to react quickly or miss their opportunity, a perspective that can cause a conflict to quickly escalate.
The Zebra survey also explores triggers that put drivers into a stressful emotional state. The top cause of anger and frustration behind the wheel is distracted driving on the part of other drivers — with 63% of respondents citing it as compared to just 42% in 2019.
While speeding is considered aggressive, drivers are more frustrated by people going “too slow,” with 46% citing it as an annoyance versus going “too fast” (34%).
Who Commits Road Rage
According to the American Automobile Association, “road ragers” are mostly poorly educated males between the ages of 18 to 26 with criminal records. They have histories of violence, drug abuse, or alcohol problems, and many have suffered emotional or professional setbacks.
In studies of anger and aggressive driving, counseling psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph.D., of Colorado State University, found that people who identified themselves as high-anger drivers differ from low-anger drivers in five key ways.
- They engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. They’re more likely to insult other drivers or express disbelief about the way others drive. Their thoughts also turn more often to revenge, which sometimes means physical harm.
- They take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers are more likely to go 10 to 20 mph over the speed limit, rapidly switch lanes, tailgate, and enter an intersection when the light turns red.
- High anger drivers get angry faster and behave more aggressively. They’re more likely to swear or name-call, yell at other drivers, to honk in anger. And they’re more likely to be angry not just behind the wheel, but throughout the day.
- High-anger drivers had twice as many car accidents in driving simulations. They also report more near-accidents and get more tickets for speeding.
- Short-fused drivers experience more trait anger, anxiety, and impulsiveness. Perhaps from work or home stress, high-anger drivers are more likely to get in the car angry; they also tend to express their anger outward and act impulsively.
Victims Become the Aggressor
Many impatient drivers set themselves up to be victims of road rage. They take risks on the road, which can lead to aggressive driving, which can lead to disputes, which can escalate into road rage.
You may become enraged yourself “sick and tired” of dealing with aggressive drivers who are “jerks,” “idiots,” “who don’t have all their wagons in a circle,” “who have the intelligence quotient of a Styrofoam cup.” They can all get you heated up and make you lose your patience, make you do things, and take risks you normally wouldn’t.
According to a Driver’s Ed report, about half of the drivers admit to aggressive driving after another driver has done it to them. The most common responses are:
- Horn honking
- Light flashing
- Rude gestures
No one likes getting cut off or feeling the pressure of a tailgater that makes the road less safe. However, you don’t want to add to the problem by becoming one of those drivers yourself.
Things to Do/Don’t Do to Avoid or Deal with Road Rage
The general rule is to avoid all conflicts. If another driver wants to get by, let him pass. If she wants a parking space, let her have it. Consider it a contribution to your favorite charity. If another driver challenges you, don’t challenge back. Let him go.
Here are some suggestions from the AAA and then some on how to avoid and deal with road rage.
- DONT take traffic problems personally. Believe it or not, traffic is not an organized conspiracy to prevent you from being on time.
- DO give yourself enough time to get where you are going.
- DON’T automatically assume other drivers’ mistakes are purposely aimed at you.
- If a driver has done something stupid to you or simply made a mistake, DO NOT return the favor. In other words, don’t have a contest to see who is the dumbest; you may just win.
- AVOID eye contact with aggressive drivers; it only encourages them.
- If an aggressive driver makes an obscene gesture, DO NOT make one or two back at him. Although it may be incredibly gratifying, it brings you to his level and can escalate the situation.
- If an aggressive driver pursues you, DO find the nearest police station.
- BE CAREFUL about using your horn as a method of communicating; even a friendly honk can be misinterpreted. DON’T honk excessively.
- DON’T use high-beam headlights unnecessarily.
- If you drive slowly, DO pull over and let people pass you.
- DON’T block the passing lane no matter how fast you are going, there will always be someone who wants to go faster.
- DON’T switch lanes without signaling first.
- AVOID blocking the right-hand turn lane.
- DON’T tailgate.
- DO NOT take up more than one parking place.
- DON’T allow your door to hit the car next to you when exiting your car in a parking lot.
- DON’T inflict your loud music on nearby cars.
Lastly, although it can be hard sometimes, try to be polite and courteous on the road, even if another driver is acting like an idiot.
If you have an interest in going much deeper into these types of topics, I invite you to check out the International Security Driver Association’s website and consider joining the membership to gain access to the encyclopedia of executive protection and secure transportation – The ISDA Knowledge Center.
For more information on all of the member benefits head over to https://isdacenter.org.