Traffic and weather conditions will certainly be on the minds of many motorists as they head for the hills to gather with family and friends in the days ahead. While the celebrations may get loud and sometimes even cantankerous, experts say it’s best to keep your emotions in check while en route to avoid a dangerous and potentially deadly bout of road rage.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as, “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property,” while full blown road rage is characterized as, “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle or precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”
Aggressive driving plays a role in 56 percent of all fatal crashes in the U.S., according to a study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, while the AAA Foundation attributed more than 200 murders and 12,000 injuries to road rage over a seven-year time period.
What’s more, the level of tension on the nation’s roadways has only increased while overall traffic has been reduced because of pandemic-fueled business closures and work/learn from home policies. A recent study conducted by the insurance website The Zebra in Austin, TX determined that while 35 percent of the population is logging fewer miles these days, one in five drivers is experiencing more roadway frustration now than prior to COVID’s roadblocks. A whopping 95 percent of respondents said they’ve observed road rage or aggressive driving in the past year while 64 percent admit to the behavior.
In addition to paying fines and court costs, The Zebra found that motorists being cited for reckless driving will see their annual insurance premiums skyrocket by an average of $906, and far more in some states.
Compared to the Zebra’s last road rage survey in 2019, drivers feel they are “more triggered” across the board as far as what frustrates them. Not surprisingly, the survey found that most common source of anger (63 percent) is distracted drivers. Rightly so, as 3,142 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2019, according to NHTSA.
More than half (56 percent) of motorists said they felt most frustrated negotiating highways and freeways, followed by streets, traffic lights/intersections, and shopping center parking lots. Honking a vehicle’s horn to express anger or frustration is the most self-reported aggressive behavior, followed by yelling/cursing at another driver or pedestrian (24 percent).
In The Zebra’s survey, 60 percent of drivers said they deal with frustration by listening to music. Other top tactics include yelling or cursing, waiting until the feeling goes away, or driving a different route.
Experts say the best way to respond when another driver seems to be venting his or her anger in your direction is not to react at all. If another driver cuts you off or is otherwise driving aggressively, slow down and give them room to pass. Do not respond with obscene gestures or equally hostile actions. If you inadvertently cut off another driver, try to apologize by making a suitable hand gesture.
If you feel you’re in danger because of another driver’s actions, use a cell phone to call police or drive to a police station if there’s one within proximity to get law enforcement involved. Never exit your vehicle to confront the other person if you’re at a traffic signal or are otherwise stopped.
Perhaps adding fuel to the proverbial fire, The Zebra found that 27 percent of motorists admit to keeping a weapon in their car for personal protection (knife, pepper spray, a club, etc), with eight percent packing a firearm while driving. Think about that the next time you decide to flip off another driver for whatever vehicular infraction irks you on any particular day.
Here is The Zebra’s list of the 10 top triggers for road range motorists should be mindful of, especially as so many of us hit the highways to celebrate by year’s end:
- Distracted drivers (63%)
- Others not using turn signals (51%)
- Tailgating (49%)
- Getting cut off (49%)
- Others driving too slow (46%)
- Traffic jams (46%)
- Others driving too fast (34%)
- Getting blocked from merging (32%)
- Other drivers displaying anger (27%)
- Construction zones (24%)
The Zebra’s full study can be found here.