Road Rage Rise: U.S. Sees A Spike In Aggressive Driving Leading to Tragic Outcomes
Tailgating. Yelling. Honking. Together, we know them as “road rage,” and these incidents are on the rise. The results can be tragic.
Road rage, commonly characterized by aggressive driving, is a factor in more than 50% of all car crashes that end in fatality, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Plus, the average number of people shot and killed or wounded in road rage incidents in the United States had almost doubled in the last four years, according to a 2021 report.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
“As frustrating as our roads can be, road rage isn’t worth the risks and dangers that it brings,” said Matt Clark, senior partner and accident attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark. “The most important thing is to arrive home safely at the end of the day, and road rage will not help you there.”
Read on to learn more about the spike in road rage, and how we can all reduce the amount of road rage incidents and crashes.
ROAD RAGE U.S.A
The term road rage originated in the 1990s as a new term for the growing trend of extremely aggressive driving cases in our country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 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.
Most of us play a part in this rise of road rage. Nearly 80% 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, according to AAA Foundation. 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. Some more startling statistics:
- 57 million drivers reported switching lanes quickly or very close behind another car.
- 71 million drivers reported making rude gestures or honking at another driver.
- 106 million drivers also admitted to driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit.
Aggressive driving is a factor in 54% of all fatal motor vehicle crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. In fact, in a years-long study, road rage episodes resulted in about 30 deaths and 1,800 injuries per year. In a seven-year period, road rage incidents caused 218 murders and 12,610 injuries.
According to a June 2021 report, the average number of people shot and killed or wounded in road rage incidents in the United States had almost doubled, going from a monthly average of 22 deaths and injuries in the 4 years prior to a monthly average of 42 deaths and injuries between June 2020 and May 2021. In 2021, there were 728 road rage incidents, higher than the record in 2020 with 702 incidents. The total number of people killed or injured in 2021 was 522, compared with 409 in 2020. The total number of people killed or injured in 2021 was 522, compared with 409 in 2020.
Experts say the increase in road violence is likely due to a mix of multiple factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which introduced financial, medical, social, and other stressors into people’s lives.
There are several things we can do to avoid a heated situation on the road:
- 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.
- Plan driving time accordingly, or even decide not to drive when you know you’ll probably get upset.
- Expect other drivers to make mistakes.
- Emotions are contagious. Often, the other driver will mirror your own anger, further escalating the situation. You can use the same tactic to defuse the situation.
- If you become upset while driving, find a place to stop and calm yourself. Take a short walk or take deep breaths.
- If you’re feeling strong emotions, ask another person to drive.
It’s possible you may find yourself faced with another driver who is behaving aggressively or erratically. In these cases, here are some things you can do:
- Do not respond. You don’t want to do anything that might escalate conflict. Remain calm and focus on getting to your destination safely
- Take a deep breath. It’s important not to allow yourself to also become upset. Be tolerant and forgiving. The other driver may be having a really bad day and need to vent.
- Be polite. Your behavior may help soften their anger.
- Avoid eye contact, and be sure to keep seat belts buckled in case of unexpected braking.
- Allow enough room around your vehicle. If the other person approaches you, increase the space between you. This will allow you to pull out or go around them.
- Stay in your vehicle. This gives you protection if the other person attempts to harm you.
- Call 911 or local emergency services. Seek help from law enforcement if you need assistance. If possible, provide a time, date, location, license plate, vehicle description and driver description.
- 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. Once you’re in one of these areas, you can use your horn to attract attention.