What causes road rage?
Everyone's been frustrated while driving — at least once. Whether it's 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. Each year thousands die in preventable motor vehicle accidents and road rage is one of the more deadly behaviors behind the wheel.
But what exactly is road rage? What are some precautions you can take to avoid to getting so angry while driving? We'll explore the states, genders, and ages most susceptible to road rage by unearthing data from notable sources like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the American Automobile Association, including priopitary data from more recent years.
Table of contents
- Road rage in 2020
- Road rage in 2019
- Aggressive driving vs. road rage
- What does road rage look like in the US?
- Road rage statistics by state
- Road rage statistics by gender
- Road rage statistics by age
- Road rage and gun violence
- Comparing road rage to drunk or distracted driving
- Dangers of road rage on car insurance premiums
- Road rage FAQs
In May 2020, The Zebra, the nation's leading insurance comparison site, conducted a national survey on 1,500 Americans to better understand this "road rage" phenomenon.
Major takeways include:
- 19.3% of respondents reported feeling anger and intense aggression while driving in the past year, while 5.5% said they experienced those same feelings weekly. 2.8% reported those same feelings every time they drive.
- The most common act of road rage witnessed by American drivers was another driver honking their car horns in anger (48.3%). However, 41.1% (almost half of the respondents) witnessed drivers giving rude hand gestures to the person of their aggression. 35.8% saw other drivers yell at another driver, while 6.2% actually witnessed drivers get out of their car and fight in a physical altercation.
- Distracted driving, tailgating, and being cut off in traffic are the most enraging behaviors, according to the survey (respondents reporting 27.7%, 21.4%, and 15.6% respectively).
This new data also indicates a concerning lack of action taken by most Americans, despite knowing the dangers of road rage.
- 40.8% of drivers reported believing road rage was just as dangerous as distracted driving.
- 41.4% of drivers reported believing road rage was just as dangerous as drunk driving.
- 44.4% of people also admitted failing to report road rage to the police when they saw it.
Perhaps this discrepancy comes down to varying beliefs regarding how road rage is defined.
- 17.4% claim road rage is only feelings caused by another driver's behavior, while 10.1% define road rage as physical responses due to another driver. 2.1% see road rage as physical responses due to traffic/blockage. 1.8% responded that road rage was caused by traffic or construction.
- Of the above options, 46.7% saw road rage as all of the above, but 21.1% didn't see road rage as any of the listed options.
- Listen to music or a podcast: 30.5% (still regarded the top favorite choice, in accordance to last year's road rage survey)
- Think of something more peaceful: 19.2%
- Letting off steam by yelling in the car: 9.5%
In October of 2019, The Zebra surveyed Americans across the United States for their opinions and behaviors regarding road rage. The following data points are taken from the aforementioned survey.
- 82% of drivers in the U.S. admit to having road rage or driving aggressively at least once in the past year.
- 59% of drivers reported showing anger by honking.
- 45% of drivers report changing lanes without signaling.
- 42% of drivers claimed they've yelled or cursed loudly at another driver.
- 38% said they've used rude or obscene gestures against other drivers.
Most respondents said they did not report road rage to the police. More than half of the survey respondents said they had witnessed road rage, directed either at themselves or someone else.
- Only 10% of drivers say they’ve actually called the police on another driver because of aggressive driving or road rage in the past year.
While not all road rage incidents have led to a physical confrontation, The Zebra found that:
- 7% got out of their vehicle to verbally confront another driver.
- 6% threw objects.
- 6% got in a physical altercation with another driver.
- 5% sideswiped another vehicle.
- 5% bumped or rammed another vehicle on purpose.
- 5% forced another driver off the road.
According to our survey, the top three road-rage-inducing actions are:
- Distracted driving
- Getting cut off
If you find yourself experiencing road rage, our respondents used these methods to relax and settle down:
- 62% suggested listening to music.
- 23% think of something else.
- 22% yell or curse to blow off steam.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has outlined legal differences between road rage and aggressive driving. Aggressive driving constitutes anything construed as reckless: tailgating, speeding, or blocking another car from passing. Road rage is more serious because it often involves a violent intent towards another driver. This includes behaviors such as using a vehicle to ram another car, physically fighting with another driver on the side of the road, or using a weapon to threaten or cause harm.
Here are some additional facts about aggressive drivers and road rage:
- Road rage is legally classified as a criminal charge. This is because it is classified as a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.
- Aggressive drivers can be ticketed as a traffic offense.
- Other criminal road rage offenses include swerving into another car, forcing another driver off the road, shooting a gun into another car, tailgating behind a car, ramming another motorist, or performing brake checks in front of a vehicle.
- 2% of drivers admit to attempting to run another driver off the road.
- 86% of drivers believe it's safe to drive at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit on the highway
- In 2006, only 80 fatal crashes were related to road rage.
- In 2015, the number of road rage-related fatal car accidents was up to 467, up 500% in just 9 years.
- Road rage has led to an estimated 300 deaths since 2013.
- About 30 murders nationwide have been attributed to incidents that started with road rage.
- The American Automobile Association (AAA) has linked more than 12,500 injuries to driver violence, out of 10,000 car accidents since 2007.
- Of the deaths related to road rage, most have been considered deliberate murders.
- Over a seven-year time period, more than 200 murders and 12,000 injuries were attributed to road rage.
According to the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there was about one deadly accident related to road rage per day in 2016. The following statistics are taken from an analysis of FARS data done by Auto Insurance Center and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Here are the top ten states with the most deaths related to road rage or aggressive driving in 2016:
Additional statistics from the NHTSA includes:
- Cities in Texas, Michigan, Georgia, and Minnesota were rated the top five "Road Rage Capitals" in 2009.
- Cities in Minnesota, Tennessee, Missouri, and Georgia were said to have the kindest drivers.
- Drivers in Houston, Texas, and San Diego, California, noted seeing speeding behavior daily.
- If you drive in Cleveland, Ohio, Denver, Colorado, or Portland, Oregon, you are statistically less likely to see speeding drivers than anywhere else in the country.
- 22% of Americans said they saw fellow drivers run red lights every day.
- Studies on gender and traffic safety say males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage and tailgate.
- However, in a study to explore those who say they experience road rage more than four times a week, 34% were 18-34 years old and female.
According to The Zebra’s survey, males are on the receiving end of road rage more often than females.
- 39.2% of men have experienced road rage directed at them
- 28.9% of women have experienced road rage directed at them
It's usually assumed younger and less experienced drivers are involved in the greatest number of accidents. The Zebra's 2019 survey proved that to be true.
- Those born between 1981 and 1996 (often termed Millennials) have been identified in taking part more than 50% of all aggressive driving accidents.
- A generation before millennials (Gen X) took part in only 21% of all crashes involving rude gestures or aggressive driving.
- Lastly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the generation next to retire (the baby boomers) were involved in the fewest crashes due to reckless behavior (4.2% of all crashes).
These stats might be due to a misunderstanding in common road etiquette, often occurring a daily commute. Here are some follow-up facts about angry drivers by age:
Generation Y, Generation Z and road rage
In 2019, The Zebra found that:
- 20% of millennials have admitted to “slowing down to annoy or educate people who want them to move over.”
- About 60% of young people believe that the left lane has a specific purpose, and 30% use the left lane to cruise on highways.
- Anger management issues might be the reason for some accidents: 20% of teenagers report anger issues.
- 14% of aggressive driving crashes involve a driver aged 18 to 24.
Generation X and road rage
Recent NHTSA reports found that:
- Road rage was a factor in 25% of the fatal car crashes involving drivers aged 40 to 54. These road rage-related deadly crashes constituted 5% of all fatal traffic incidents.
Baby boomers and road rage
According to the NHTSA:
- 70% of drivers aged 55 and older said the far-left lane is for passing, not cruising.
- Fewer than 20% of seniors use the left lane for cruising.
- Baby boomers contribute to 8% of deadly road rage accidents.
The Trace, a nonprofit news organization focused on gun violence, found that:
- In 2014, 247 road rage incidents involved a gun.
- In 2016, road rage cases involving a firearm increased to 620
- In 2017, there were 325 road-rage gun incidents.
- 136 people were killed in a road rage shooting from 2013-2017.
The Zebra’s national survey found:
- 14.4% of respondents think road rage is more dangerous than drunk driving.
- 36.4% of respondents think road rage is less dangerous than drunk driving.
- 49.2% of respondents consider the behaviors equally dangerous.
Road rage vs. distracted driving
The Zebra’s national survey found:
- 17.9% of respondents think road rage is more dangerous than distracted driving.
- 27.3% of respondents think road rage is less dangerous than distracted driving.
- 54.8% of respondents think the behaviors are equally dangerous.
Road rage can lead to aggressive driving, a behavior that may have legal ramifications and fiscal downsides, especially as car insurance is concerned. Reckless driving is generally defined as careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention. A reckless driving citation is costly from an insurance perspective. Since 2012, insurance rates for driving violations (speeding, running red lights, racing, etc.) are on the rise. On average, it will bump up your annual premium by more than $1,000.
Average premium increase by road rage violation
|Company||Speeding ticket||DUI||Reckless Driving|
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What is road rage a symptom of?
Road rage can occur for many different reasons. Common triggers include excessive traffic, slow driving, and distracted driving. However, many times road rage is due to stress in other aspects of the driver's life.
How do I stop my road rage anger?
There are many methods to relax and lessen feelings of road rage. Some include listening to music, thinking of something else, and yelling to blow off steam. However, stress management varies by person and you should find a mechanism that works best for you.
What do you do if someone has road rage?
The best way to deal with someone experiencing road rage is to distance yourself from the situation. This is good practice whether you are in the car with someone experiencing road range or if someone is directing their road rage towards you as a driver.
Is road rage a criminal offense?
Road rage is legally classified as a criminal charge. This is because it is classified as a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.
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This study was conducted for The Zebra using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,000 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in 2020.