Aggressive driving, also commonly referred to as road rage, involves behavior that is motivated by anger while driving. The term refers to dangerous driving with a disregard for safety and courtesy. Aggressive driving includes behaviors such as tailgaiting, speeding, failing to use turn signals, cutting off other motorists, and other dangerous behaviors. Over the last twenty years, aggressive driving has gained attention as it has been found to be the cause of serious car crashes and crimes. Aggressive driving is only one aspect of a bigger set of problems related to dangerous driving, which puts all motorists at risk.
Types of Aggressive Driving
In addition to dangerous driving, aggressive drivers often attempt to intimidate their victims by making obscene gestures and yelling. While laws vary by state, there are several offenses that aggressive drivers can be ticketed for:
- Distracted driving occurs when a driver fails to use normal care when operating a vehicle, and endangers other people or property. In many states, distracted driving laws also include language that prohibits the use of devices such as cell phones.
- Reckless driving is more serious than distracted driving and is generally defined as driving in a manner that creates an unjustifiable and substantial risk of harm to others.
- Aggressive driving involves a pattern of the behaviors listed above as they occur over a short period of time.
Road Rage and Aggressive Driving
Road rage is generally considered a more extreme form of aggressive driving that involves violence or intimidation through driving activities. Road rage can involve the intent to harm others, the use of a vehicle as a weapon, and can take place outside of the vehicle involved. Road rage and aggressive driving is often caused by driver anger when the goal of getting from point A to point B is interrupted. Many drivers report feeling angry at times, though anger does not always lead to road rage and aggressive driving. Usually, individual, situational, or cultural factors combine to cause aggressive driving.
Dangers of Aggressive Driving
Car accidents are the leading cause of accidental injury and death in the United States, and aggressive driving is responsible for a large percentage of all car accidents. Studies have shown that aggressive drivers kill two to four times more people than drunk drivers. Studies also show that aggressive driving occurs often and contributes significantly to collisions involving injuries and fatalities.
What Causes People to Drive Aggressively?
There are many different factors that can lead to aggressive driving. To fix the behavior, one must understand these factors:
- Anger and Frustration - Anger and frustration often combine with other factors leading drivers to behave in an aggressive manner.
- Personality Traits - Studies have shown that there are two main types of personalities that are prone to aggressive driving. They include antisocial personalities and competitive personalities.
- Environmental & Situational Factors - Environmental and situational factors can trigger aggressive driving. Environmental factors can include street design, and the road and car environment. Situational factors tend to include technologies such as mobile phones, in addition to noise, heat, traffic, or other conditions.
What Can Be Done About Aggressive Driving?
To address aggressive driving, traffic laws are enforced by police and behavior is deterred through large fines or possible jail time. Unfortunately, due to police staffing issues, the enforcement of traffic laws only partially deters aggressive drivers, as police often do not catch drivers who break the law. In some cities, surveillance technology is used and offenders are then mailed citations. As the dangers of aggressive driving have become more apparent, enhanced legislation and regulations have been proposed to keep roadways safe. Drivers can also help to prevent aggressive driving by taking their time when driving, and not allowing environmental and situational factors to affect them.
Learn More About Aggressive Driving
- Center for Problem Oriented Policing - The Problem of Aggressive Driving
- NHTSA - Stop Aggressive Driving
- An Overview of Aggressive Driving
- Aggressive Driving - An Observational Study
- Aggressive Driving Facts and Statistics
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety - Aggressive Driving Research
- Road Rage and Aggressive Driving
- Harvard Injury Control Research Center - Road Rage
- Road Rage Makes Driving a Dangerous Contact Sport
- Road Rage a Growing Concern
- GHSA - State Aggressive Driving Laws
- How to Avoid Aggressive Drivers & Avoid Being One