Next time you’re ready to make a rude gesture when another driver cuts you off in traffic, take a deep breath.
America’s highways are already more than mean enough, according to a new study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Nearly 8 of 10 drivers demonstrated significant anger, aggression or road rage in the past year, the study found. They admitted to tailgating, confronting other motorists and even hitting other cars on purpose.
“Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” Jurek Grabowski, the foundation’s director of research, said in a AAA news release. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
Anger or road rage provokes a number of risky behaviors. The study found about half of drivers, or roughly 100 million people, have tailgated or yelled at another motorist.
About 45 percent honk their horn when they are mad; 33 percent make rude gestures; 24 percent block another car from changing lanes; 12 percent cut off other cars; and 4 percent have gotten out of their car to confront someone.
The researchers also found that 3 percent — nearly 6 million people — have bumped or rammed another car on purpose due to road rage.
Most motorists believe aggressive driving has gotten worse in recent years and threatens their personal safety.
Road rage is more common among men between the ages of 19 and 39. Drivers in the Northeast are also much more likely to yell, honk or gesture out of anger than those elsewhere in the United States.
Road rage is also more common among those who also speed or run red lights, according to the study published July 14.
“It’s completely normal for drivers to experience anger behind the wheel, but we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy and research, said in the news release.
“Don’t risk escalating a frustrating situation because you never know what the other driver might do. Maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching your destination safely,” Nelson added.
AAA offers these tips for preventing road rage:
- Don’t offend. Never force another driver to hit the brakes or change direction.
- Be tolerant. Don’t take driving personally. Other drivers may be having a bad day as well.
- Do not respond. Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures and keep adequate space between cars. If an emergency arises, call 911.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides more information on aggressive driving.