New Research: Majority of Americans are Angry Drivers
Last week, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a new study, in which nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to anger, aggression, and road rage at least once in the past year.
In its annual Traffic Safety Culture Index [PDF], the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released some startling statistics about Americans sitting behind the wheel. They’re angry—and in some cases, aggressive.
According to the survey, which was released on July 14, 104 million drivers admitted to purposefully tailgating, while 95 million drivers admitted to yelling at another driver. Drivers also honked to show annoyance or anger (91 million), made angry gestures (67 million), tried to block another vehicle from changing lanes (49 million), and cut off another vehicle on purpose (24 million).
But some of the most alarming numbers include the 7.6 million drivers that admitted to getting out of their vehicle to confront another driver and the 5.7 million drivers that bumped or rammed another vehicle on purpose.
It’s no wonder that nearly two-thirds of drivers believe that aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than it was three years ago. Or that nine-out-of-10 Americans consider aggressive drivers a threat to their personal safety.
“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jurek Grabowski, director of research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, in a press release.
According to University of Chicago Psychiatrist Emil Coccaro, who was interviewed by NPR, some of those with road rage might also have a condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. This disorder, which can affect as many as 6 percent of the population, can have ramifications on the road, as well as on the job and at home.
Whatever the reason behind the road rage, Grabowski said: “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
In an effort to mitigate instances of road rage, AAA issued some advice. First, the group recommends that you keep from offending other drivers by not forcing them to slam on their brakes or turn their steering wheels because they’re reacting to something you’ve done. AAA also suggests that drivers remain tolerant and forgiving—and if you do find yourself the victim of another driver’s road rage, the group recommends avoiding eye contact and any gestures. They recommend keeping space around your vehicle and dialing 9-1-1 when needed.
Counseling Psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, who presented research at the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association conference, found that relaxation and cognitive relaxation therapies are beneficial in reducing anger behind the wheel.
“It’s completely normal for drivers to experience anger behind the wheel, but we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research, in a press release. “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.”