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Whether a driver or passenger, chances are you will witness road rage or be involved in an aggressive driving event yourself at some point. Unfortunately, road rage continues to impact America’s roadways. AAA estimates nearly eight out of 10 drivers demonstrate aggressive driving behaviors when driving. Road rage is a broad term, but the act can put both drivers and passengers at extreme risk. The latest road rage statistics highlight alarming trends, such as drivers suffering higher incidents of road rage and fatal consequences.
What is road rage?
Road rage occurs when a driver experiences extreme aggression or anger, intending to create or cause verbal or 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 vs. Road Rage
|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. While they can be factors in accidents, they may not always be the direct or sole cause of injury or death. The following statistics provide a fuller picture of how road rage impacts drivers and road safety.
- 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.
- Road rage incidents caused 218 murders and 12,610 injuries over a seven-year period.
- Road rage and aggressive driving are caused by numerous factors, including traffic, running late, disregard for others and the law and as a learned behavior.
- 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.
- The NHTSA lists speeding and alcohol as the leading causes of driving fatalities due to aggressive driving. Other contributing behaviors include following improperly, erratic lane changing, passing where prohibited and several other dangerous behaviors.
- Speeding — a form of aggressive driving — is responsible for 11,258 deaths on the roadways in 2020.
- Over 52% of men and 44% of women surveyed by AAA admitted to driving 15 mph over the freeway speed limit on a regular basis.
- 2021 was the deadliest year for road rage with an average of 44 people per month shot and killed or wounded during a road rage shooting.
- Road rage deaths due to gun violence have doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels.
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, according to the latest AAA survey. While around half of males and females were likely to speed, other road rage behaviors, such as following other drivers too closely to prevent merging, skew male at 37.8% male vs. 29.3% female.
Self-reported aggressive driving behaviors weighted %, male vs. female
|Drive through red light||32.2%||30.0%|
|Switch lanes quickly||31.5%||21.4%|
Data has shown age to be another contributing factor 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 found most likely to prevent another driver from changing lanes or most likely to bump or ram another vehicle.
Self-reported aggressive driving behaviors weighted %, by generation
|Younger Gen Z (17-18)||Older Gen Z (19-24)||Millennials (25-39)||Gen X (40-59)||Baby Boomers (60-74)||Post-War
|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. Worse, being a victim of road rage can lead to wanting revenge, amplifying the issue.
How common is road rage?
In its survey of aggressive driving enforcement programs, 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 they had experienced extreme anger, aggression, or road rage while driving.
- 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.
Likelihood of Aggressive Driving Among U.S. Drivers (AAA, 2019)
|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|
Gun violence on roads
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. Statistics show that Texas, Florida, and California lead the states in the number of road rage incidents involving guns. Texas alone had 467 cases with guns, where 358 people were shot and led to 87 fatalities.
- Gun deaths and injuries in road rage incidents increased 98% between 2017 to 2021.
- 522 people were shot in 2021 due to road rage compared to 263 people in 2017.
- A total of 1,732 people were shot in road rage incidents in the U.S. from 2017 to 2021.
- From 2017 to 2021, there were 439 fatal gun shootings due to road rage.
Road rage cases by state (2017-2021)
|Rank||State||Number of road rage cases involving a firearm|
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 5 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, which are often commuters. Traffic congestion is consistently cited as a leading factor in aggressive driving incidents.
Commuter-reported factors in road rage and aggressive driving
|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.
Traffic and congestion continue to clog the roadways in the U.S., which is leading to hours spent in our vehicles for commuting. The INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard ranks the cities where commuters spend the most amount of hours in their car and found the following U.S. cities are the worst:
|U.S. City||Number of hours spent in traffic per year|
|New York City||102|
The psychology behind road rage
As it turns out, there may be a psychological reason why road rage is on the rise. According to research discussed in Psychology Today, road rage involves both the emotions of the drivers involved and the ability to regulate those emotions. While some people can deal with anger on the road more constructively, for others it leads to aggression or aggressive driving.
Other observations include:
- Road rage occurs due to multiple factors, including the environment (crowded highways), psychological factors (stress and displaced anger) as well as factors such as youth.
- Road rage is found to continue throughout the day, not simply during driving. For example, drivers with shorter fuses tend to be more impulsive and anxious in general.
- Angry drivers take more risks on the road, including speeding 10-20 miles per hour over the speed limit, rapidly switching lanes, tailgating and running red lights.
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. An SR-22 form serves as proof that you have the minimum amount of coverage legally required. Not all insurance providers offer filing for this form and if they do, it usually costs a monthly fee. While the SR-22 form itself does not result in higher insurance rates, the incident causing the need for the SR-22 could lead to higher premiums.
At the very least, road rage behaviors are likely to increase car insurance rates due to increased insurable risk. However, the amount of the increase will depend on where you live.
How to prevent road rage
Road rage exists 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.
- 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 at your destination safely, which patient driving can help achieve.
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.