Is Road Rage on the Rise? 

road rage

The rise in reports of dangerous road rage encounters is a disturbing trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) polled motorists on the topic, and around 60 percent of them said they felt threatened by unsafe driving. 

This discussion reviews the risk factors for road rage, how to deescalate an encounter with an angry driver, and what to do if you are involved in a car wreck caused by aggressive driving. 

How Widespread Is Road Rage?

To discern just how widespread road rage is in this country, consider the following statistics. In 2020, the city of Dallas, Texas, logged more than 445 violent crimes motivated by road rage. In Lincoln, Nebraska, road rage incidents were up a staggering 200 percent in 2021, compared with the previous year. 

Road rage events are not just increasing in frequency.  They are escalating in intensity as well. All too many motorists are reacting to aggressive driving with a permanent solution: gunfire. In a recent online article, the Atlanta Police Department confirmed that most road rage violence they respond to involves gunfire. 

And these are just the incidents reported to law enforcement. Imagine how many more road rage encounters go unreported every day across the United States. 

What Is Road Rage?

Road rage is violent or explosive anger caused by frustrations and inconveniences that occur while driving. Typically, road rage refers to a retaliatory action an individual takes against someone they perceive has having wronged them. 

Aggressive Driving vs. Road Rage

Road rage is commonly used in conjunction with the term aggressive driving, but they differ in terms of intensity. Aggressive driving and road rage behaviors can overlap, but road rage is much more intense. 

Aggressive driving is a deliberate, unsafe behavior that endangers oneself and others on the road. Road rage is extreme deliberate, unsafe behavior that poses an immediate risk to property and life. If aggressive driving is giving another motorist the middle finger, road rage is pointing a gun in their direction. 

Examples of aggressive driving and road rage behaviors include: 

  • Yelling
  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Beeping the horn
  • Offensive gestures 
  • Weaving in and out of traffic 
  • Intentionally following another driver 
  • Intentionally ramming into another vehicle
  • Driving on the shoulder, median, or sidewalk 
  • Preventing other drivers from merging or changing lanes
  • Threatening another person with violence including weapons
  • Getting out of one’s vehicle to confront another driver or pedestrian

Risk Factors for Road Rage

Although road rage can happen at any time, research has uncovered several key risk factors for these frightening events: 

Age. Studies show that drivers ages 19 and younger are four times more likely to be involved in an accident caused by aggressive driving, compared with their older counterparts. 

Gender. One risk factor seems to be gender, with male drivers more likely to cut off or confront another motorist. 

Time of day. The hashtag #roadrage is used more frequently during the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. than any other time of the day. That seems to align with the evening commute, a stressful time for many. 

Time of year. Certain months also see more road rage incidents than others. Road rage incidents are more common during July, August, September, and into October. 

Type of vehicle. Experts have analyzed what type of vehicles more aggressive drivers are driving. They found that drivers with their convertible tops up honked the horn sooner, more often, and for longer than drivers in vehicles with the tops down. It seems the anonymity our vehicles offer embolden some drivers to be more aggressive. 

The Psychology behind Road Rage

Beyond those commonalities, a psychologist from Colorado State University identified personality traits that differentiate high-anger drivers from low-anger drivers. 

Based on his research, the psychologist determined that high-anger drivers engage in aggressive, hostile thinking. Whereas drivers who are slow to anger may just turn the other cheek when they are cut off, a high-anger driver is more likely to insult the other person or consider retaliating. 

High-anger drivers are also more likely to take risks. They tend to drive over the speed limit, tailgate, and enter an intersection as the light turns red more often. High-anger drivers had double the number of accidents during traffic simulations and reported more near-misses and traffic tickets for speeding. 

It takes less to make these drivers mad, and their anger is more intense than other drivers. That anger simmers under the surface not just while driving, but throughout the course of their day. 

Anxiety and impulsiveness were also more common among angrier drivers. They can be angry even before they start driving, and more apt to express that anger outwardly. 

Tips to Prevent Road Rage Incidents

Most drivers have experienced moments of frustration and anger when another driver cuts them off or rides their bumper. If you are the angry driver, it is important to manage your emotions and avoid escalating an aggressive encounter to the point at which it becomes road rage. 

Take a breath. Deep breathing is an effective way to lower stress in the body. When you stop and take a deep breath, you are sending a message to the brain to relax and calm down. It is something you can do while driving to reduce your heart rate and ease tension in the body. 

Simply take a deep breath in through the nose and all the way into your belly, so much that your belly starts to push outward. Your chest should not move. Now, slowly release the breath through pursed lips like you are whistling. Do this five to 10 times. You should feel notably calmer and, it is hoped, less inclined to tell off the next obnoxious driver. 

Resist the urge to honk or tailgate. When another driver is being aggressive, the urge to react is tempting. But following too closely, slamming on the brakes, or cutting off another driver is only going to increase the chance of an accident. 

You cannot predict how another driver will respond if you engage them. It is not always easy, but it is always best to distance yourself from an aggressive driver and avoid name-calling, honking, and other gestures at all costs. If you believe they are a danger to themselves or others, make a hands-free call to 911 or pull over safely before alerting the authorities. 

Drive with empathy. At the end of the day, every driver makes mistakes or has lapses in judgement. Shift your thinking when another driver cuts you off or rides a little too close to you bumper. Maybe they just got bad news or are not feeling well. If you change your perspective to stop taking these behaviors personally, you will not be as quick to retaliate. 

What to Do if You Are Involved in an Aggressive Driving Car Wreck

AAA reports that 78 percent of drivers admit to committing at least one aggressive driving behavior in the previous year. Unfortunately, many of these behaviors lead to car accidents. If you are involved in a wreck caused by an aggressive driver, focus on your safety first and foremost. 

If the other driver seems aggressive, do not get out of your vehicle. Call 911 immediately and wait for law enforcement to arrive. Or drive to the nearest police station if you feel you are in immediate danger. 

Once you are safe, you can give your contact information and documentation to the officer and file a police report. 

Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Clients Injured by Aggressive Drivers  

Unfortunately, incidences of road rage are increasing. If you are involved in an accident caused by an aggressive driver, reach out to the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will hold the negligent motorist accountable and fight to secure appropriate compensation for your injuries and damages. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.