Aggressive driving is a factor in 54% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. To shed light on this rapidly growing issue, we compiled the latest statistics and facts about road rage in the U.S.
Most drivers in the U.S. will come in contact with dangerous drivers. Road rage, commonly characterized by aggressive driving, is a factor in more than 50% of all car crashes that end in fatality, according to the AAA. In fact, in a separate years-long study, road rage episodes resulted in about 30 deaths and 1,800 injuries per year.
In this article:
- What is road rage?
- Road rage behaviors
- Road rage statistics
- Road rage accidents and deaths
- How common is road rage?
- Road rage statistics by state
- Road rage risk factors
- Is your commute contributing to road rage?
- Road rage driving laws state by state
- How road rage impacts car insurance rates
- How to prevent road rage
- What to do in a road rage situation
What is road rage?
Road rage occurs when a driver experiences extreme aggression or anger intending to create or cause physical harm.
The term road rage dates back to the 1990s when the media dubbed a new term for the growing trend of extreme aggressive driving cases that seemed to be flooding the country. Many legislators have made it a criminal offense to express the severity of road rage, while aggressive driving remains a traffic violation in most areas.
Road rage behaviors
It is important to note that aggressive driving and road rage are not the same, although aggressive driving contributes to road rage. According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving is when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”
Road rage takes things one step further into more violent and potentially dangerous territory.
|Aggressive Driving||Road Rage|
|Basic definition||Deliberate, unsafe driving behavior that poses a risk to property or another||Extreme deliberate, unsafe driving that poses an immediate and significant risk to property or another|
Speeding when in heavy traffic
Cutting off another driver
Running red lights
Weaving in and out traffic
Frequently changing lanes
|Rude or inflammatory gestures
Hitting, bumping, sideswiping or ramming another vehicle
Use of headlights or brakes to intimidate or harass other drivers
Forcing another car off the road
Road rage statistics
Aggressive driving and road rage can be difficult to quantify. They play roles in accidents but are not always the main reason for an injury or death. However, these statistics help give a better look into the hidden world of road rage.
- 78% of drivers report committing at least one aggressive driving behavior in the past year, including tailgating, yelling, or honking to show annoyance to another driver.(AAA)
- The most common types of road rage are tailgating, yelling or honking at another vehicle, and are a factor in more than half of all fatal crashes.(AAA)
- In a seven-year period, road rage incidents caused 218 murders and 12,610 injuries.(AAA)
- That’s about 30 deaths and 1,800 injuries per year caused by road rage.(AAA)
- Running late is one of the leading reasons given for aggressive driving, and the most frequently-cited excuse for following too quickly and passing on the right.(NHTSA)
Road rage accidents and deaths
- On average, road rage causes about 1,800 injuries per year.(AAA)
- There are an average of about 30 road rage deaths per year.(AAA)
- Road rage is on the rise, with a 500% increase in fatalities resulting from aggressive driving crashes between 2006 and 2015.(NHTSA)
- Men self-report more aggressive driving behaviors than women on average.(AAA)
Some leading factors show prevalence in road rage accidents.
Gender is a major contributing factor in most road rage cases, with males more likely to exhibit road rage than females. While around half of males and females were likely to tailgate another driver, more severe actions skew male. For example: cutting off another driver (15.5% of males, 8.3% of females), confronting them (5.7% of males, 1.8% of females), and bumping or ramming another car (4.3% of males, 1.3% of females).
|Block from changing lanes||28.6%||19.8%|
Age is another factor that seems to contribute to road rage. Drivers between the ages of 25 to 39 were the most likely to exhibit road rage behaviors, according to the AAA. People between 19 and 24 were most likely to prevent another driver from changing lanes or bump or ram another vehicle.
|16-18||19-24||25 – 39||40 – 59||60 – 74||75+|
|Block from changing lanes||12%||28%||27.5%||26.3%||19.3%||17.9%|
What makes road rage so dangerous is that about half of all road rage victims feel enraged by their experience, amplifying the issue. Worse, about two percent of road rage victims admit to wanting revenge.
How common is road rage?
In its survey, the NHTSA asks motorists about feelings of safety on U.S. roads. About 60% said their family feels threatened by unsafe driving, while three-quarters of respondents urged for something to be done.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety did a deep dive into the behaviors seen on American roads. The results are staggering.
- Almost 80% of all drivers affirmed that while driving, they had experienced extreme anger, aggression, or road rage within the last month alone.
- About 78% of drivers admit to engaging in aggressive behavior themselves.
- About half of drivers admit honking, yelling or purposely tailgating another vehicle as the most common expressions of annoyance and anger.
|Behavior||Percentage of drivers||Total number of drivers|
|Aggressively switching lanes while close to another vehicle||26%||57 million|
|Honking or making rude gestures||32%||71 million|
|Driving 15 mph or more over the highway speed limit||48%||106 million|
|Running a red light||31%||68 million|
|Cutting in front of another vehicle||22%||49 million|
|Speeding to prevent another vehicle from passing you||25%||55 million|
|Tailgating to prevent another vehicle from merging in front of you||34%||75 million|
|Rushing to merge into traffic in front of another vehicle||28%||62 million|
Worst states for road rage
Some states have significantly worse drivers than others.
While complete data for the number of road rage cases per state is not available, we looked at the Trace’s study on road rage with a firearm, and the statistics are alarming. Florida is the top-ranking state for road rage with a firearm from 2014 to 2016, with Texas, California, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania in close pursuit. Louisiana experienced 35 cases of road rage with a firearm in just three years from 2014 through 2016.
|Rank||State||Number of road rage cases involving a firearm|
Within each state, certain cities and metropolises are more susceptible to road rage with firearms than others. Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Phoenix, and Tampa are the leading cities for road rage with a gun based on 2014-2016 data.
Road rage risk factors
What circumstances make road rage more likely? While incidents can happen anywhere at any time, there are certain factors that increase risk:
- Age: Studies show that younger drivers aged 19 and below are more than four times more likely to be involved in an aggressive driving crash than their older counterparts.
- Month and day: Road rage incidents tend to be more likely in the summer months of July, August, September and even into October. They are also more likely towards the end of the week, based on the Auto Insurance Center’s analysis of Instagram posts using the #roadrage hashtag.
- Time of day: The same social media study found that the use of the hashtag #roadrage was much higher between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., coinciding with peak commute hours.
- Type of car: Drivers with convertible tops up honked longer, sooner, and more often than those with their convertible tops down, according to the NHTSA.
Certain behaviors surface again and again in fatal accidents. Not so coincidentally, many of these behaviors also coincide with road rage. The NHTSA reports that many of the major contributing factors to all motor vehicle crashes include aggressive behaviors:
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
- Following improperly
- Improper or erratic lane changing
- Illegal driving on the road shoulder, in a ditch, or on sidewalk or median
- Passing where prohibited
- Operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner or suddenly changing speeds
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers, failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
- Failure to observe warnings or instructions on a vehicle displaying them
- Failure to signal
- Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of the posted speed limit
Is your commute contributing to road rage?
Road rage tends to affect those who spend a lot of time on the road, and that’s most often commuters. Again and again, traffic congestion is cited as a leading factor in aggressive driving incidents.
|Trigger factors||Percentage of drivers|
|Impatience while waiting at traffic lights or for parking||33%|
|Impatience waiting for passengers to enter their vehicle||25%|
|Anger when a multi-lane highway narrows||22%|
The NHTSA notes in its study that the rise in aggression and rage could be directly attributed to more drivers driving more miles with each passing year. There simply is not enough space to accommodate all of the drivers jamming America’s roads and highways.
Road rage driving laws state by state
Road rage remains largely ambiguous within the eyes of the law. Most states have not enacted legislation expressly addressing road rage. Instead, just a handful of states across the country have aggressive driving laws.
Texas offers a clear definition for its law, defining reckless driving as “a willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.” A misdemeanor, you could face fines up to $200 and a maximum of 30 days in jail if found guilty.
In Delaware, reckless driving can cost you up to $300 in fines and up to 10 days in jail. Virginia charges up to $2,500 in penalties, and in Oregon, penalties run as high as $6,250. Drivers found guilty of reckless driving in Washington could face as much as $5,000 and up to 364 days in jail.
Massachusetts has the Juvenile Operator Law, also known as State Courts Against Road Rage, which requires teen drivers and certain offenders to complete a SCARR or driver improvement course.
|Arizona||AZ S 1533 Highway Obstruction/Drag racing
AZ H 2296 Restricted Licenses/Aggressive driving
|Colorado||CO H 1039 Careless Driving Serious Bodily Injury (Pending/postponed indefinitely)|
|Florida||FL S 1248 Racing Motor Vehicles
FL H 1531 Local Law Enforcement Agencies
|Georgia||GA S 10 Promoting Illegal Drag Racing Offense
GA H 534 Illegal Drag Racing
|Hawaii||HI S 377 Traffic Violations
HI H 385 Reckless Driving
|Maryland||MD S 17 – Life-Threatening Injury||MD H 178 – Reckless Driving Speed Contests
MD S 337 – Excessive Speeding
MD S 408 – Reckless Driving
MD H 494 – Reckless Driving
MD S 495 – Negligent Driving
MD H 668 – Negligent Driving
MD H 855 – Criminal Law Life-Threatening Injury Involving a Motor
MD H 926 – Vehicle Homicide
|Massachusetts||MA H 3389 – Engaging in High-Speed Chases|
|Michigan||MI H 4153 Suspended License Penalties/Aggressive Driving|
|Missouri||MO H 891 Offense of Aggravated Endangerment of a Highway Worker|
|Montana||MT D 385 Commercial Driver Serious Offense Laws/Aggressive Driving
MT D 627 Traffic Safety Laws/Aggressive Driving
|Nevada||NV A 116 Traffic Offenses and Violations/Aggressive Driving
NV S 393 Traffic Offense Civil Penalties/Aggressive Driving
|New Jersey||NJ S 713 Failure to Maintain Lane/Aggressive Driving
NJ S 783 Vehicle Accident Lawsuit Option Limitation/Aggressive Driving
NJ A 2716 Vehicular Homicide Minimum Term/Aggressive Driving
NJ S 3050 Reckless Vehicular Homicide
NJ A 3334 Aggressive Driving Offense
|New Mexico||NM H 58 Additional Violent Felonies
NM S 343 Crime of Racing on Highways or Streets
|New York||NY S 717 Reckless Driving
NY S 764 Traffic Violation Convictions
NY A 1147 Reckless and Dangerous Driving
NY A 3036 Reckless Driving
NY S 3534 Vehicular Violence Accountability Act
NY A 5188 New Crime of Aggressive Driving
|Oklahoma||OK H 1770 Public Safety/Aggressive Driving|
|Rhode Island||RI S 596 Motor Vehicle Offenses/Aggressive Driving
RI H 5094 Motor Vehicle Offenses/Aggressive Driving
RI H 5574 Motor Vehicle Offenses/Aggressive Driving
RI H 5630 Automobile Accident Social Protection Act/Aggressive Driving
RI H 5631 Highway Safety Act/Aggressive Driving
|South Carolina||SC S 135 Reckless Vehicular Homicide/Aggressive Driving (Pending)|
|Tennessee||TN S 946 Reckless Endangerment/Aggressive Driving
TN H 1321 Criminal Offenses/Aggressive Driving
|Texas||TX S 1495 Highways and Motor Vehicle Criminal Offenses/Aggressive Driving
TX S 1766 Impoundment of Motor Vehicles Involved in Racing/Aggressive Driving
TX H 3291 Criminal Penalty for Reckless Driving
TX H 3478 Prosecution of Offenses of Reckless Driving and Racing
|Utah||UT S 231 Expungement Amendments
UT H 311 Negligent Operation of Motor Vehicles and Sentencing
|Washington||WA S 5456 Crime of Swarming|
|West Virginia||WV H 2218 Penalty for Certain Aggravated Serious Traffic Offenses|
While there is still far to go on the legislation front, today, road rage is generally addressed through other charges, such as property damage, aggressive driving and even vehicular homicide. When there is significant damage, including loss of life, it can lead to criminal offenses.
How road rage impacts car insurance rates
Car insurance is designed to help provide financial protection for several incidents related to your car, but road rage is not one of them. Nearly every car insurance policy will exclude intentional acts. Allstate is one example, writing into its policies that it will not cover “loss caused intentionally by or at the direction of an insured person.”
That means if you are found guilty of road rage, your car insurance policy may not cover you. You would then be responsible for paying for any losses out-of-pocket. The other driver could also sue for extra damages.
If you are found guilty of road rage or aggressive driving, your insurance company could drop your coverage if you are found negligent. With car insurance required in most states, you may have to file for SR-22 insurance as a high-risk driver.
At the very least, road rage is likely to increase car insurance rates, the amount of which will depend on where you live.
How to prevent road rage
Road rage is everywhere, but there are some things you can do when driving to help ensure that you are not its next victim.
When driving, be sure to abide by the rules of the road at all times and be courteous to your fellow drivers, including the following:
- Keep a safe distance between you and the other vehicles on the road.
- Always use your turn signals to communicate your intentions.
- Give room for other drivers to merge.
- Avoid using your horn. If unavoidable, use a short honk rather than long, repeated honks.
- Refrain from hand gestures and offensive or inflammatory language.
- Practice patience, regardless of whether you are at an intersection, in traffic or waiting for a parking spot.
- Refrain from using your high beams unless necessary to see.
As frustrating as U.S. roads can be, road rage isn’t worth the risks and dangers that it brings. The most important thing is to arrive home safely at the end of the day, and road rage will not help you there.
What to do in a road rage situation
If you are in a road rage situation, the best course of action is to remain calm and focus on getting to your destination safely. Do not engage with the other driver, do not return gestures or remarks made at you. Avoid eye contact, and be sure to keep seat belts buckled in case of unexpected braking. If someone is following you as the result of a road rage situation, avoid going to your home and try to pull into a police station, fire station or another heavily populated area.
When you safely reach your destination, call 911. If possible, provide a time, date, location, license plate, vehicle description and driver description. Write down or provide a fully detailed report of the incident, and prepare to appear in court if necessary.