Road rage statistics and facts in 2021

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The U.S. has a real problem with too many drivers and not enough roadways to accommodate them. One study from 1990 to 2000 shows that although the number of miles traveled increased by 28.9 percent, the miles of U.S. roadway only grew 2.1 percent in response. So it is not surprising that aggressive driving is a factor in over half of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. To help shed light on this rapidly growing issue, we compiled the latest statistics and facts about road rage in the U.S.

In this article:

Road rage statistics

The Insurance Information Institute (iii) admits that aggressive driving and road rage is “difficult to quantify.” However, these statistics help give a better look into the hidden world of road rage.

  • More than 75% of American drivers admit to aggressive driving, a less severe form of road rage.
  • 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.
  • In 2019, almost 80% of drivers admitted to significant anger, aggression, or road rage within the last 30 days while driving.
  • In an analysis of more than 10,000 road rage incidents over seven years, there were at least 218 murders and 12,610 injuries.
  • Running late is one of the leading reasons given for road rage in an NHTSA study.
  • Increased speed limits over the last 25 years have led to almost 37,000 fatalities, with nearly 2,000 in 2017 alone, according to the iii.
  • An average of 30 murders occurs each year due to road rage.

Road rage accidents statistics

Some leading factors show prevalence in road rage accidents. Gender is one glaring factor, with males more likely to exhibit road rage than females. Age is another factor. The AAA Foundation found that drivers between the ages of 25 to 39 were the most likely to exhibit road rage behaviors. Those between the ages of 19 and 24 were most likely to prevent another driver from changing lanes or bump or ram another vehicle.

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 2 percent of road rage victims admit to wanting revenge.

Road rage deaths statistics

  • From 2014 to 2016, there were 136 shootings related to road rage — double the previous number.
  • The AAA Foundation found in a seven-year study of 10,000 road rage cases a minimum of 218 murders and 12,610 injuries.
  • There was a 500% increase in fatalities resulting from crashes linked to aggressive driving between 2006 and 2015, according to the NHTSA.

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.

Driver fatigue warning signs

Drowsy driving can be hazardous because drivers are proven to experience poor judgment and have delayed reaction times, which can inadvertently cause other drivers to experience road rage. You may also find yourself unable to correctly judge the distance between cars or objects, as well as the speed of your car and those around you. According to the NHTSA, these ‘human errors’ are known to be a contributing factor to aggressive driving.

When you are drowsy, you can also have more trouble regulating your emotions, making you subject to more extreme emotions and behaviors yourself. This is where road rage thrives.

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 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (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
Common behaviors Tailgating
Speeding when in heavy traffic
Cutting off another driver
Running red lights
Weaving in and out traffic
Frequently changing lanes
Rude or inflammatory gestures
Profanity
Hitting, bumping, sideswiping or ramming another vehicle
Use of headlights or brakes to intimidate or harass other drivers
Forcing another car off the road

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 surveyed in the AAA Foundation’s 2019 report 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, with one-third going as far as to gesture in anger at another driver.
  • About half of drivers admit honking, yelling, or purposely tailgating another vehicle as the most common expressions of annoyance and anger.

Based on 214 million licensed drivers in the U.S. at the time, that means about 5.7 million American drivers had bumped or rammed another vehicle as a response to road rage, while 7.6 million Americans had confronted another driver. Approximately 8 million drivers reported doing both.

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

Road rage statistics by state

Some states have significantly worse drivers than others.

While complete data for the number of road rage cases per state is not available, primarily due to the difficulty in classifying road rage incidents by state, we did take a look 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.

Road rage cases by state (2014-2016)

Rank State Number of road rage cases involving a firearm
1. Florida 147
2. Texas 126
3. California 82
4. Tennessee 68
5. Pennsylvania 62

Within each state, certain cities and metropolises are more susceptible to road rage with firearms than others. The Trace study lists Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Phoenix, and Tampa as the leading cities for road rage with a gun based on 2014-2016 data.

Road rage statistics over time

There’s no question that the issue of road rage becomes much worse with each passing year. From 1990 to 1996, there was a 51% increase in serious road rage incidents. AAA found over 12,500 injuries and 218 deaths could be linked to these acts. The number has steadily increased at a rate of 7% each year. More recently, two out of three U.S. drivers told AAA they believe aggressive driving has increased considerably within the last three years.

Total fatal crashes (2014-2018)

Year Total fatal crashes
2018 33,654
2017 34,560
2016 34,748
2014-2016 91,264

The NHTSA provides a clear illustration of the human toll paid from aggressive driving and road rage. In 10,000 cases of road rage, researchers accounted for the deaths of innocent bystanders, counting a total of 33,521 pedestrians and 4,782 bicyclists. There were a further 531,000 pedestrians and 385,000 bicyclists who were injured as a result of road rage.

Road rage risk factors

Certain behaviors surface again and again in fatal accidents. Not so coincidentally, many of these behaviors also coincide with road rage.

According to the NHTSA, fatal road rage incidents occur most frequently at 10 p.m., and the instances of deadly road rage-related accidents are higher on Sundays and Mondays and during the summer months. The organization also notes specific behaviors associated with crashes in which there was at least one fatality.

Behaviors Associated with 2018 Fatal Crashes
✓ Speeding
✓ 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
✓ Racing
✓ Making an improper turn

(NHTSA)

Anonymity is one major factor evident in studies. The NHTSA reports that drivers with their convertible tops up honked longer, sooner, and more often than those with their convertible tops down.

One of the most significant factors, however, is societal pressure. From work to school and all of our family’s needs, there is much to balance. Timeliness is often non-negotiable, and as America’s roads fill more and more, traffic awaits at every corner. The NHTSA reports that the average mother drives an average of 29 miles each day and spends more than one hour driving between an average of five stops.

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.

Commuter-reported factors in road rage and aggressive driving (NHTSA)

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 the fact that more drivers drive more miles with each passing year. There simply is not enough space to accommodate all of the drivers jamming America’s roads and highways.

The consequences of road rage

Road rage can have significant consequences. Speeding also remains one of the leading factors in fatal crashes, showing that a bit of patience goes a long way when you are behind the wheel.

The NHTSA furnished these numbers based on a 2018 study.

Speeding fatalities (NHTSA)

Number of drivers involved Percentage of drivers involved Number of Fatalities
Speeding 8,596 17% 9,378

Excessive speeding and reckless driving can also put you at risk for:

  • Rear-end collisions
  • Side-swipe accidents
  • Roll-overs when your vehicle’s speed is too fast for a curve or turn
  • Head-on crashes with other vehicles and objects

There is also the matter of legal consequences. If an officer observes road rage, that driver could be charged with a criminal offense. The consequences can be severe, including court costs, legal fees, penalties and possible imprisonment. If a passenger or another driver is injured, you could be vulnerable to additional legal and financial consequences.

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. This requires teen drivers and certain offenders to complete a SCARR or driver improvement course.

Pending reckless driving and road rage legislation (NCSL)

State Pending Failed
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 protection for several incidents, 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. This includes 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.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.