Road Rage

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is extremely common among U.S. drivers. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous year. Previous research by the AAA Foundation found that from 2003 to 2007, over half of fatal crashes involved at least one driver who performed a potentially aggressive action.

Aggressive driving has increasingly become a major cause of concern for many road users. Learn more about aggressive driving risks and tips to avoid aggressive driving behaviors here.

Any unsafe driving behavior, performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety, can constitute aggressive driving. Examples of aggressive driving behaviors include:

  • Speeding in heavy traffic
  • Tailgating
  • Cutting in front of another driver and then slowing down
  • Running red lights
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Blocking cars attempting to pass or change lanes

Using headlights or brakes to “punish” other drivers

Extreme cases of aggressive driving can escalate to road rage. Examples of road rage are:

  • Cursing and rude or obscene gestures
  • Throwing objects
  • Ramming
  • Sideswiping
  • Forcing a driver off the road

According to estimates by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers engaged in the following angry and aggressive behaviors during the previous year, including:

  • 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 (8 million drivers)
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose: 3 percent (6 million drivers)

Manage your behavior, manage your responses

You will see other drivers doing things that are illegal, inconsiderate and even incomprehensible.  Don’t respond personally. Most drivers are not thinking about their impact on you; they are just rushed, distracted or upset.

Follow the rules of the road:

  • Maintain adequate following distance.
  • Use turn signals.
  • Allow others to merge.
  • Use your high beams responsibly.
  • Tap your horn if you must (but no long blasts with accompanying hand gestures).
  • Be considerate in parking lots. Park in one spot, not across multiple spaces. Be careful not to hit cars next to you with your door.

Remaining calm and courteous behind the wheel lowers your risk of an unpleasant encounter – with another driver and with law enforcement.

Dealing with Confrontation

  • Avoid eye contact with angry drivers.
  • Don’t respond to aggression with aggression.
  • If you feel you are at risk, drive to a public place such as a police station, hospital or fire station.
  • When you park, allow room so you can pull out safely if someone approaches you aggressively.
  • Use your horn to attract attention but remain in your locked vehicle.
  • If you are confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible.
  • If you feel threatened, call 911.

Always Remember

  • Don’t Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle, and contact 9-1-1 if needed.