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Road Rage: What You Should Do

There is no national definition for the term "road rage". However, it is commonly defined as a societal condition where motorists lose their temper in reaction to a traffic disturbance. In most cases, the traffic situations encountered are typical of todayapostrophes normal driving conditions and higher traffic volumes.

"Aggressive driving" refers to an angry motorist attempting to intentionally injure or kill another driver because of a traffic dispute. Aggressive drivers react negatively and use their vehicles to retaliate by making sudden, threatening maneuvers. This makes "road rage" a serious issue of traffic safety - the safety of yourself and others.

Experts say aggressive driving behaviors are triggered by a variety of stimuli. Some are provoked by the actions of another driver; others are set off by roadway congestion. But, most are caused by the driversapostrophe own moods and reactions when they get behind the wheel.

Aggressive Driver Profile
Persons who exhibit aggressive behaviors cross all age, race, socioeconomic and gender lines. Even persons who are usually "mild-mannered" can blow their top behind the wheel. These persons may only become mad when theyapostrophere on the road. However, persons who are characteristically cynics, rude, angry or aggressive are prone to get angry more often. Those persons are "raging" at home, at work and on the road.

Common Motorist Irritants

  • Tailgating to pressure a driver to go faster or get out of the way.
  • Flashing lights in order to signal persons to move to another lane.
  • Obscene gesturing.
  • Changing lanes without signaling.
  • Blasting the horn.
  • Frequently changing lanes by weaving back and forth.
  • Racing to beat a yellow light thatapostrophes about to turn red.
  • Traveling in the passing or left lane at a slower speed, making it impossible for others to pass.
  • Driving with the high beams on behind another vehicle or toward oncoming traffic.
  • Cutting people off.
  • Slowing down after passing someone.
  • Not making a right turn in the right-hand turn lane.
  • Not reacting quickly after the red light turns green.

What Motorists Can Do
"He/she who drives away, lives to drive another day."

  • Use directional lights to indicate a lane shift.
  • Follow the laws of the road.
  • Be polite and courteous.
  • Stay within the speed limits.
  • Drive at a safe following distance.
  • Stay mostly within one lane.
  • Donapostrophet become distracted by using the car phone or reading the paper while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Put some physical distance between you and drivers who are behaving erratically.
  • Donapostrophet show a reaction to the aggressive driver; especially, avoid eye contact.
  • Avoid behaviors that antagonize or irritate others.
  • Learn to control your temper and keep your cool in traffic.
  • Use your horn sparingly.
  • Keep the music in your vehicle at a level that doesnapostrophet annoy others.
  • If you are feeling frustrated - create a distraction such as turning on the radio, start a conversation with a passenger, play 20 questions, or talk yourself through the situation to calm down.
  • Be tolerant of those who exhibit non-conforming traffic behaviors.

Iowa Statistics
The Iowa Department of Transportation does not maintain statistics on aggressive driving. Although there is no specific category for aggressive driving, violations such as following too close, running stop signs and stop lights, speeding and improper lane change can all be elements of an aggressive driving behavior, especially if they are coupled with traffic crashes.

National Statistics
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 250,000 people have been killed and 20 million motorists injured in traffic crashes between 1990-96. The U.S. DOT estimates that two thirds of fatalities are at least partially caused by aggressive driving.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that included reports from 30 newspapers, a review of insurance claims and police reports from 16 cities revealed the following statistics among 10,037 occurrences between 1990 and 1996.

  • 10,037 incidents of aggressive driving
  • 218 deaths
  • More than 12,610 injuries

Click here for more information from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Report concerning aggressive driving/road rage.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Study

According to a national survey recently conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the majority of motorists consider unsafe driving by others a significant threat to their personal safety. The survey results, released January 22, 1999, included:

  • 98 percent of those surveyed felt it was important to do something about unsafe driving. Of that 98 percent, 75 percent felt it was very important.
  • About one in three felt that drivers in their area were driving somewhat or a lot more aggressively than a year ago.
  • Among reasons for increased aggressive driving, respondents included drivers being rushed or behind schedule (23 percent); increased traffic or congestion (22 percent); careless, inconsiderate drivers (12 percent); and immature, young drivers (12 percent).
  • More than half (59 percent) of the drivers reported they see vehicles traveling at unsafe speeds all (31 percent) or most of the time (28 percent). Another 35 percent saw drivers traveling at unsafe speeds at least some of the time.
  • Respondents listed the following as unsafe behaviors, other than speed, that they encounter on the roads: weaving in and out of traffic (24 percent), tailgating (17 percent), driver inattention (15 percent), and unsafe lane changes (10 percent).

For a copy of the survey, "National Survey of Speeding and Other Unsafe Driving Actions," write to the Office of Research and Traffic Records, NHTSA, NTS-31, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590 or fax a request to (202) 366-7096. It is a three-volume package: Vol.1, Methodology; Vol. II, driver attitudes and behaviors; and Vol. III, countermeasures. The report also will be available on the Internet at: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/enforce/aggressdrivers/index.html.

Article courtesy of and copyright by the Iowa Department of Transportation at www.dot.state.ia.us.