Anyone who’s played Mario Kart will be familiar with the feeling of road rage. When the blue shell lands and the controller is thrown across the room, that’s road rage at its finest!
But it isn’t all fun and games. Out in the real world, cars have the potential to become incredibly dangerous – and 3,300 lb of metal can become a weapon in the wrong hands.
That’s why it’s vital for new drivers to learn to get a handle on their emotions. It’s why you should never drive when you’re tired, or after an argument at home.
Unfortunately, it’s all too common for feelings to spill out onto the road. Almost half of drivers admit to yelling or honking the horn in anger. And any regular driver will sympathize with road rage after countless close passes, tailgating terrors or just endless hours of traffic after a long day at work.
But when frustration boils over, it gets deadly.
Do you know how many deaths road rage is responsible for across America?
Or on which day of the week road rage is most likely to flare up? How about how often the car isn’t the only weapon, and firearms enter the fray?
Every driver needs to be prepared for road rage – both when they meet it on the road, or when we find our own emotions getting the better of us.
For the need-to-know road rage statistics, look no further. Here are the key insights.
- In 2019 research from the AAA Foundation revealed that 80% of drivers have expressed anger or aggression in the past 30 days.
- Road rage is directly responsible for 1,800 injuries and 30 murders each year.
- But a further two-thirds of traffic fatalities are linked to aggressive driving.
- Road rage incidents have increased five-fold in the last ten years.
Road rage is rife – and dangerous. Let’s take a deep dive into the road rage statistics to uncover this phenomenon of the road.
So let’s take a look at all the road rage facts and statistics you need to know. Statistics are all the rage.
- How Many Accidents Are Caused By Road Rage?
- How Common Is Road Rage?
- Is Road Rage Getting More Common?
- Is Road Rage Illegal? Road Rage Laws Across The United States
- Who Gets Road Rage? By Age
- Do Men Get Road Rage More Than Women?
- When Does Road Rage Happen? The Road Rage Risk Factors
- Are Road Rage Shootings Getting More Common?
- Is Road Rage More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving?
- Does Road Rage Make Your Insurance Premium Increase?
Road Rage: Origins And Definitions
Whilst the earliest motor vehicles struggled to get beyond 10mph, naturally keeping the driver’s heart rate lower than today’s high-powered vehicles, road rage has been around in a recognizable form since the Second World War.
The term itself – “road rage” – was coined in the late 1980s, after aggressive driving led to gun deaths on the road in Florida. And the phrase “road rage” has become firmly embedded in our driving vocabulary, even making its way into legislation in certain states.
Whether road rage is distinct from aggressive driving is up for debate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as driving which “endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property”, which makes road rage a criminal offence.
Meanwhile, aggressive driving encompasses a wider range of behaviour, all of which is a traffic violation rather than a criminal issue. The lines between the two are often blurred, however, as shouting and honking, tailgating and cutting off vehicles in front can demonstrate.
Road rage can include the following behaviours:
- Honking the horn in anger
- Shouting or gesturing to other motorists
- Flashing lights to intimidate other drivers
- Tailgating or passing other vehicles too closely
- Wielding the vehicle as a weapon, aiming to bump or crash into other road users
- Even pulling over and exiting the vehicle for aggressive purposes can be classified as road rage
Have you ever been guilty of road rage? It’s likely that you have as over 50% of drivers admit to this behaviour. Let’s take a trip down road rage highway.
Road Rage Statistics
Road rage and aggressive driving are shockingly common, and even minor flare-ups of aggression lead down a slippery slope to injury and death. Let’s take a look at the state of rage on the road today.
How Many Accidents Are Caused By Road Rage?
Aggressive driving is found to be a factor in over half of fatal accidents – that means that once every 32 minutes, road rage leads to a fatality. On top of that, road rage leads to 30 murders on the roads every year.
The research suggests we’re all prone to fits of rage whilst driving. Whilst an obscene gesture or a toot of the horn might seem harmless, there’s a real cost to road rage. Let’s take a look at the accidents, injuries and deaths caused by aggressive driving.
- Aggressive driving, from tailgating to illegal lane changing, is a factor in over half of fatal accidents (56%).
- Road rage deaths increased five-fold over ten years, and they’re still going up.
- On average, there are 30 murders each year due to road rage.
- But there are thousands more deaths on the road due to road rage and aggressive driving that don’t count as murder.
- Over seven years, road rage was directly responsible for 200 deaths and 12,000 injuries in the US.
- And road rage causes about 1,800 injuries every year.
- There have been a whopping 10,000 accidents due to road rage since 2007.
- Between June 2016 and May 2020, an average of 22 people were killed or wounded by a gun in road rage incidents.
- And between June 2020 and May 2021, this increased to 42 people on average. A shocking increase.
- Estimates of road rage injuries and deaths vary significantly, depending on the definitions used in the study.
How Common Is Road Rage?
80% of drivers admit to engaging in some aggressive behavior and almost one in five drivers report feeling “intense anger” while driving. Dangerous, aggressive, and reckless driving is common on our roads.
With four out of five drivers admitting to engaging in some form of aggressive behaviour, it’s clear we’re all susceptible to road rage. Here’s the road rage overview before we get into the nitty-gritty.
- 19.3% of people surveyed by insurance comparison site Zebra reported feeling intense anger whilst driving.
- 32% of drivers admit to honking horns or making obscene gestures.
- 26% of drivers admit to swerving between lanes or tailgating in times of stress.
- 31% of drivers admit to having run a red light.
- 25% of drivers have sped up when another vehicle attempts to overtake.
- 28% have continued with a merge even when another driver tries to block them.
- And 22% have passed in front of another vehicle with less than a car length’s space.
- 34% of people admit to tailgating to prevent another vehicle from merging with traffic.
- And 48% of people admit to travelling at 15mph over the speed limit.
- Despite all this, only 10% of drivers have dialled 911 to report an incident of road rage.
- All of these actions are aggressive – and common. Road rage and aggressive driving are embedded in American road culture.
Is Road Rage Getting More Common?
In 2020, one in five drivers reported feeling anger and aggression while on the road, while as many as 2.8% of road users feel aggression every time they drive. But reports of road rage dropped 2% between 2020 and 2021.
Covid kept many of us off the roads in 2020. Was a return to the mean streets a shock to our system? Let’s take a look at road rage in recent years.
- In 2020, road rage was a common feeling: almost 20% of drivers reported feeling anger and aggression whilst driving in the last year.
- And 2.8% of road users reported feeling aggression every time they drove.
- That indicates over 1 in 35 road users were ready for road rage at any given moment!
- In 2020, 48.3% of drivers witnessed road users honking their horns in anger.
- And 6.2% of drivers had witnessed fights breaking out on the road.
- Reports of road rage dropped by almost 2% between 2020 and 2021.
- In 2021, the most common incident was honking, reported by 45.4% of drivers.
- That’s down almost 3% year-on-year. Are we calming down on the road?
- In 2021, the thing drivers reported as most frustrating in other road users was drivers using their phones.
- 26.5% of drivers relied on music and podcasts to remain calm whilst driving.
Is Road Rage Illegal? Road Rage Laws Across America
Getting angry behind the wheel – but if your feelings manifest in your driving then you’re falling foul of the law. Aggressive driving is likely to lead to misdemeanor traffic offenses, so you could get points on your license, fines, or even end up in jail.
The definition of road rage and aggressive driving differs from state to state. But you need to know the law, to understand the parameters within which you can drive.
- In Delaware, reckless driving is a misdemeanour: punishable by a $300 fine and up to ten days in jail.
- In Virginia, penalties are capped at $2,500.
- In the Pacific Northwest, the price is high: fines of up to $6,250 in Oregon, and a year in jail is on the cards in Washington.
- Massachusetts requires teen drivers to undertake classes if they’re found driving aggressively.
- Violence, from assault and murder to driving your car with intent to do damage, is usually criminalized under existing assault laws.
- Vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter are the crimes of intentionally or negligently causing death with your car.
Who Gets Road Rage? By Age
Not everyone is equally susceptible to road rage. Young men have been identified as disproportionately responsible for road rage incidents. Millennials are responsible for over half of all fatal accidents caused by aggressive driving, while baby boomers cause just 8.2% of fatal accidents – mellowed with age.
Let’s take a look at how gender and generation impact road rage.
- Baby boomers are responsible for 8.2% of fatal accidents caused by aggressive driving.
- Millennials are responsible for more than half of these accidents.
- Gen X are responsible for 21% of these fatal accidents.
- And out of all fatal accidents involving a driver aged 40 – 54, one-quarter of these were caused by road rage.
- Mellowing with age? Whether it’s experience or something else, the youth of today are disproportionately responsible for aggressive driving deaths.
- Drivers aged 14-21 are responsible for 14% of crashes caused by aggressive driving.
- Drivers aged 19 and under are four times as likely to be involved in aggressive driving crashes than older drivers.
- Is this because one in five teens (20%) report having issues with anger?
- Different driving attitudes can also be to blame: 20%of millennials admit to slowing down to either “annoy” or “educate” other drivers.
- And 30% of millennials use the left lane to cruise, not just for passing.
- Meanwhile, only 20% of over 55s use the left lane for cruising.
Do Men Get Road Rage More Than Women?
Men are more likely to cause a fatal accident by aggressive driving and they’re three times as likely to confront another driver on the roads. Women are found to be more likely to tailgate other vehicles and commit rude gestures, while men honk more and cut off other drivers more frequently.
Whilst road rage is unevenly spread across the ages, it can affect everyone. Similarly, men and women experience road rage, but in different ways. Here’s a closer look at road rage by gender.
- Men are more likely to speed, honk their horns and cut off other drivers.
- Whilst women are responsible for more rude gestures and tailgating.
- 34% of those who experience road rage four times a week are women aged 18-34.
- Men are three times as likely to confront another driver: 5.4% compared to 1.7% of women.
- Men under 19 are most likely to experience road rage.
- Men are also more commonly the victim of road rage.
- 39.2% of men have had road rage directed at them.
- That’s compared to 28.9% of women.
- According to the AAA, men self-report more aggressive driving than women.
When Does Road Rage Happen? The Road Rage Risk Factors
Road rage is more common in the summer months and peaks between 4pm and 7pm every day. Look out for road rage on those hot summer commutes!
Knowing when road rage is more likely gives us the power to prevent it. From busy commutes to sweaty summer days, let’s take a look at when tensions flare.
- Road rage incidents spike in the summer months and remain high from July to October.
- Social media analysis of the hashtag #roadrage revealed a greater incidence on Thursdays and Fridays. Fried?
- And the hashtag peaks in use between 4 pm and 7 pm each day. Rush hour = road rage!
- Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed that convertible drivers honked longer, faster and more frequently than other drivers.
- 60 people were killed or wounded in road rage shootings in July 2020.
- Whilst 26 people were similar victims in December of the same year. Saved by the Christmas spirit?
Are Road Rage Shootings Getting More Common?
Gun violence on our roads doubled from June 2020 to May 2021, and in that time there were 42 road rage gun violence victims every month. Road rage gun violence is on the rise.
When anger rises, having a gun within reach raises the danger factor. And road raging drivers reach for a weapon on occasion. Let’s trace the relationship between road rage and gun violence.
- In the 12 months between June 2020 and May 2021, gun violence almost doubled.
- On average, 42 people were victims of road rage gun violence each month.
- That’s compared to an average of 24 people a month over the previous five years.
- In 2014, there were 247 road rage incidents involving a firearm.
- By 2016, that had increased to 620.
- Between 2013 and 2017, 136 deaths have been caused by firearms in road rage incidents.
Is Road Rage More Dangerous Than Drunk Driving?
Half of all road users think that road rage is as dangerous as drunk driving and one in six drivers think it’s more dangerous – but 10,000 people die every year due to drunk driving, so road rage is responsible for fewer deaths.
Drunk driving is another dangerously popular pastime. How does drunk driving comparex to road rage – and how is it perceived?
- Around half of people think road rage is equally dangerous to drunk driving.
- And 14.4% of people think road rage is more dangerous than drunk driving.
- Given that over 10,000 people die each year due to drunk driving, road rage isn’t in the same league.
- But alcohol and drug abuse can contribute to road rage. A 2011 study in Spain revealed that drinking and using cannabis made drivers both more likely to perpetrate road rage and be a victim of it.
Does Road Rage Make Your Insurance Premium Increase?
If you’re charged with a traffic misdemeanor due to reckless driving, then your insurance premiums are likely to increase. A simple speeding ticket can bump your insurance premium by $790 a year, while a reckless driving conviction will increase it by over $100.
The great cost of road rage is the number of people dead or injured from aggressive driving-related crashes. But now it’s obvious that there’s another cost you’ll need to consider as well – hitting you in your wallet. Here’s the impact of road rage on insurance premiums.
- A speeding ticket can bump your insurance premium by between $790 and $1161 per annum.
- A conviction for reckless driving can bump your premium by as much as a DUI: the average premium can rise by over $1000.
- Being pulled over for following too closely takes the average insurance premium from $1,456 to $1,838.
- The majority of policies won’t even cover damage caused due to reckless or aggressive driving, leaving you footing the bill and open to litigation.
Frequently Asked Questions about Road Rage
Any questions? Here’s the road rage FAQ to clear things up.
How Many Accidents Does Road Rage Cause Every Year?
Since 2007, over 10,000 accidents can be ascribed to road rage or aggressive driving. In fact, the number is likely much higher, but hard to quantify: tailgating, close passing and sudden braking lead to many more accidents each year.
Statistics show that over 1,800 injuries are caused by road rage every year and that aggressive driving has occurred in over half (56%) of fatal accidents on the road.
How Many People Die Due To Road Rage Each Year?
The number of deaths due to road rage varies considerably from source to source. Because of differing definitions of road rage and varying understandings of how aggressive driving leads to deaths, it’s hard to say exactly how many deaths are due to road rage each year.
Extrapolating from gun violence statistics, as of June 2021 ten people died every week from gun violence alone – totalling over 500 people a year. This far outstrips the 30 deaths associated with road rage, from the NHTSA data.
And when you factor in that aggressive driving is associated with 56% of fatal accidents, and that an estimated 20,160 died in the first six months of 2021, you could say that road rage contributes to 20,000 deaths on our roads.
Is Road Rage The Same As Aggressive Driving?
It’s hard to draw a distinct line between road rage and aggressive driving, and often there’s considerable overlap. The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as “a combination of moving traffic offences so as to endanger other persons or property” – and this emphasis on danger, and potential violence, certainly encompasses road rage.
Whilst many of us think of honking the horn, tailgating and yelling or gesturing as harmless outlets during a frustrating drive, in fact, these aggressive driving actions often count as road rage, and can lead to car crashes, confrontation, injury and even death on the road.
What Are The Most Common Aggressive Driving Actions?
In 2021, the most common offence committed by drivers was honking the horn: one-third of drivers admit this behaviour, and 48% of drivers have witnessed this behaviour on the road.
Is Road Rage Increasing?
Whilst reports of road rage dropped marginally (2%) between 2020 and 2021, extreme road violence is increasing. Drivers may be honking their horns and gesturing less often, but gun deaths on our roads have rocketed.
Between June 2020 and May 2021, an average of 42 people were victims of gun violence on the road each month. This is almost double the monthly average (24) for the previous five years.
Driving is stressful. From dark, wintery nights to busy rush hour traffic, it’s only natural that anger, frustration and concern bubble to the surface sometimes.
And due to vague definitions of what constitutes road rage, many of us find it easy to justify aggressive actions on the road. What’s the harm in a honk of the horn, or a rude gesture towards another driver?
Once you dive into the statistics, however, the relationship between microaggressions on the road and rising injuries and deaths becomes clear.
Aggressive driving and road rage are two sides of the same coin. These actions, along with tailgating, close passing and “speed checking” lead to thousands of injuries and expensive insurance claims each year.
Once you add a gun in the glove compartment to the mix, people start to die.
Every driver should be aware of how road rage contributes to a state of violence, and understand what they can do to avoid road rage when the tensions flare. Defensive driving and calm reactions are vital to keep road users safe.
So what are you going to give into? Road rage – or can you stay calm and become a road sage, a source of venerable wisdom on the road.
- Road Rate. Retrieved from Wikipedia
- The Meaning and Origin of the Expression: Road Rage. Retrieved from Phrases.org
- State Alcohol-Impaired-Driving Estimates. Retrieved from NHTSA
- Aggressive Driving. Retrieved from AAA
- 25% Of College Students Have Driven Drunk In The Past Month: Study. Retrieved from HuffPost
- Alcohol Use, Illicit Drug Use, and Road Rage. Retrieved from PubMed