An Estimated Eight Million Drivers Admit to More Extreme Behavior Says

New AAA Foundation Research

Hamilton, NJ (July 14, 2016)- Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The most alarming 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 transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jim Lardear, Director of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”

The purpose of this study was to provide estimates of the prevalence of aggressive driving behaviors. The data analyzed were collected via a nationally-representative online survey of 2,705 licensed US drivers aged 16 and older in 2014.  And according to the Federal Highway Administration, there were approximately 214 million licensed drivers in the United States in 2014.  

According to the study’s estimates, a significant number of U.S. drivers reported engaging in angry and aggressive behaviors over the past year:

  • 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)

 In New Jersey, motorists who witness aggressive driving or road rage incidents can dial #77 which is the state police’s Aggressive Driving System.   According to reports, in 2014, the tip line received 27,065 calls alerting police to dangerous drivers.

 The AAA study says that 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.

 “It’s completely normal for drivers to experience frustration behind the wheel, but we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” said Sue Madden spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Don’t risk escalating a frustrating situation because you never know what the other driver might do. Maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching your destination safely.”

 AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:

  • 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.

 The research report is available on the AAA Foundation’s website and is part of the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to driver safety. The AAA Foundation issued its first Traffic Safety Culture Index in 2008.