Hostile Highways: Nearly 60% of US Drivers Admit to Road Rage Behaviors

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Road rage is a common, costly, and sometimes fatal problem. Nearly two-thirds of American drivers Insurify surveyed have been victims of road rage, which includes being yelled at, cursed at, purposefully cut off, or forced off the road by another driver.

To better understand the effects of angry driving, Insurify surveyed more than 1,000 American drivers and analyzed the most recent road rage statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Safety Council (NSC).

Here’s what you need to know about road rage in America, including how it affects car insurance rates, which drivers are involved in the most incidents, and what to do if you encounter it.

Key takeaways

  • More than half (58%) of drivers in the United States report expressing behaviors consistent with road rage, but only 41% admit to having road rage sometimes.
  • Men are 20% more likely to admit to road rage behaviors than women.
  • Road rage can increase your insurance premiums by as much as 51% if you receive a reckless driving charge.
  • Millennials are the generation most likely to act on road rage, but Gen X admits to getting out of their cars to confront other drivers the most.
  • An average of 373 drivers and 662 passengers have died in road rage incidents each year since 2019, according to the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
  • Since 2020, road rage has caused an average of 601 incidents of gun violence per year in the U.S., according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA).
  • American drivers rank getting cut off by other drivers as the circumstance that makes them the angriest, with 55% of drivers ranking it a 4 or above on a scale of 1 to 5.

More than half of U.S. drivers admit to road rage behaviors

Getting stuck in rush hour traffic or cut off by another driver is a recipe for frustration. Most drivers have experienced some annoyance behind the wheel, but it can be dangerous when that irritation turns into road rage.

More than half (58%) of drivers Insurify surveyed admit to road rage behaviors, with horn honking being the most common angry action. But only 41% classify themselves as having road rage sometimes. Drivers are also consistently less likely to report acting out of anger themselves than to point out road rage behaviors in others.

Road rage vs. aggressive driving

Road rage behaviors include yelling at another driver, making angry gestures, blocking someone from changing lanes, purposefully cutting off another driver, forcing someone off the road, throwing objects at other vehicles, getting out of the car to confront another driver, and purposefully bumping or ramming into another car.

Aggressive driving includes violations like speeding, tailgating, and cutting off another driver. When aggressive driving escalates to more extreme behaviors, like cursing at other drivers or physical assault, it becomes road rage.

Aside from shouting and inappropriate gestures, road rage behaviors are all criminal behaviors that can lead to prosecution.

Road rage goes largely unreported

Road rage statistics

Nearly 90% of drivers have seen others exhibit road rage behaviors, and 62% have had anger directed at them. But most road rage goes unreported, except in extreme cases of aggressive driving. You’re more likely to get stopped for throwing objects at another driver than simply yelling from your window, for example.

Reckless driving, when a driver disregards the rights and safety of others, includes behavior like blocking other drivers from changing lanes. Fewer than 1% of U.S. drivers have a reckless driving citation, but 17% admit to this dangerous behavior. An additional 12% have recklessly followed another car at a very close distance out of frustration or anger.

How road rage affects insurance rates

The effect of road rage on your insurance premium

Road rage accidents cause an average of 1,035 driver and passenger fatalities yearly, according to the NHTSA. Severe traffic accidents are expensive for insurers. The average property damage claim costs more than $5,000, and bodily injury claims cost more than $24,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurance companies price your policy based on your risk of getting into an accident and filing a claim. Your driving record is a strong indicator of this risk. Insurers consider drivers with clean records safer and less risky to insure, so they pay the cheapest car insurance premiums on average.

Reckless driving offenses often overlap with road rage behaviors. Drivers with a reckless driving record spend an average of $851 more annually for a full-coverage policy than those with a clean record — second only to drivers with a DUI.

Men are 20% more likely to express road rage

Over half (55%) of male drivers admit to road rage behaviors compared to 46% of female drivers. The increased risk of car accidents associated with road rage is a contributing factor behind why men have higher car insurance rates on average.

Extreme behaviors, like confronting a driver or purposefully ramming another car, have the biggest gender gaps, with twice as many men admitting to both. Women (3%) were slightly more likely than men (2%) to express one dangerous road rage behavior: forcing another driver off the road.

Millennials have the most road rage

Millennial drivers between the ages of 28 and 42 are the angriest generation of drivers, with 52% admitting to road rage behaviors. Baby boomers and silent generation drivers have the least road rage, with 27% self-reporting these behaviors.

While young drivers under 28 are the most likely to engage in aggressive behaviors like purposely cutting someone off, based on our survey, Gen X admitted to the most extreme road rage behaviors, like purposely ramming another car or getting out of their car to confront other drivers.

Driving 15 mph or more over the speed limit is the most consistent road rage behavior across age groups, ranging from 30% (Gen Z) to 32% (Millennials) of drivers reporting it.

States with relaxed gun laws see 27% more road rage shootings

Gun violence is a growing problem during road rage incidents. Road rage shooting deaths more than doubled between 2018 and 2022, accounting for 141 deaths and more than 413 injuries in 2022, according to Everytown Research.

State laws strongly correlate to shooting frequency — states with restrictive firearm laws see less violence, and states with weaker gun laws see more. States that don’t require gun permits see 27% more shooting deaths and injuries in road rage incidents than those that require a permit but don’t give law enforcement broad authority to deny applications.

Map of the road rage gun violence in America

Texas has the most instances of road rage violence involving a gun, with an average of 106 instances each year since 2020. But New Mexico has the most road rage-related gun violence when accounting for population, with an average of 15 incidents yearly, equal to 3.5 incidents occurring for every half million residents, according to the GVA.

Texas eliminated the license-to-carry requirement for handguns in 2021. New Mexico is an “open carry” state, allowing residents to carry a loaded gun without a permit if it’s in plain view. In many states, including New Mexico and Texas, drivers don’t need a permit to carry guns in private vehicles.

Causes of road rage

Driving is full of stressors, from getting trapped behind a slow driver to navigating icy roads. Survey respondents ranked being cut off by another driver as the most infuriating behavior, followed by weaving and being stuck in traffic.

Causes of road rage

While 68% of drivers say they’ve found themselves getting angry while driving, only 58% admit to road rage behaviors. Even fewer (41%) define themselves as having road rage. 

Nature and nurture play a role in why some drivers keep their cool while others act on anger, says Mark Bingel-McKillips, a licensed clinical social worker with the online therapy platform Thriveworks.

People are born with certain predispositions to more or less emotional reactivity, but learned behavioral responses influence this innate temperament. “If a person’s father engages in extreme road rage reactions in front of them, they are more likely to follow [his] example,” said Bingel-McKillips.

How to avoid getting road rage

If you experience rage while driving, that anger might be more about your previous exposure to threats than someone swerving into your lane without using a turn signal.

“Those who have had their safety or their loved ones’ safety jeopardized in the past are more likely to have had psychological changes to the brain that make them respond more quickly and intensely to potential threats,” says Bingel-McKillips.“Road rage is most often triggered when there is a perceived or genuine threat of danger.”

To combat road rage, Bingel-McKillips recommends seeing a therapist who specializes in trauma. Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) gives patients tools to modify ingrained behaviors and recognize triggers. TF-CBT also helps patients manage hyperarousal, a charged fight-or-flight response that often results from trauma.

“For those reluctant to take the plunge into therapy, starting off by taking at least one deep breath immediately after a difficult traffic situation can greatly reduce the risk of extreme road rage behaviors,” says Bingel-McKillips. “Deep breathing has a neurophysiological impact on the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn stress response of the brain.”

How to safely react to road rage from other drivers

Being the victim of road rage makes 45% of drivers feel unsafe, but there are ways to mitigate danger and protect yourself. If you find yourself facing a confrontation with an emotional driver, these are the best ways to deescalate:

  1. Avoid eye contact: Making eye contact with aggressive drivers can increase the chances of a confrontation, advises the Texas Department of Insurance.
  2. Refuse to respond to aggression with aggression: Mouthing an apology or giving “the universal ‘eek, I messed up’ face” can help diffuse an angry driver’s heightened fight-or-flight response, says Bingel-McKillips. Responding with a rude gesture or negative expression could fuel more rage.
  3. Be forgiving: Try not to take any aggressive driving as a personal attack. Assume the other driver is having a bad day and has no ill intention.
  4. Call 311: Police encourage drivers who notice unsafe driving to call a non-emergency 311 line and report the incident.
  5. Call 911: Never hesitate to call 911 to request help if you fear for your safety.

Methodology

The survey of 1,099 U.S. adult drivers 18+ was conducted via SurveyMonkey Audience for Insurify on November 1, 2023. Of these respondents, 174 did not pass screening, and three did not complete, resulting in 922 complete responses. Data is unweighted, and the margin of error is approximately ±3% for the overall sample with a 95% confidence level.

Driver and occupant death data taken from the Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST) represent instances of reported road rage, as well as Insurify’s interpretation of aggressive driving behaviors, like wrongful passing and reckless driving charges. Statistics pulled from Insurify’s database represent averages from over 4.6 million insurance shoppers’ reported driving records.

This article originally appeared on Insurify and was syndicated by MediaFeed.

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