NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Road-Rage Myths

November 24, 1998

Contrary to popular opinion, so called "road rage" or aggressive driving is no more a threat to the average driver than it was 10 years ago, reports USA Today. Aggressive driving is defined by police and insurance companies as speeding, running a red light or stop sign, failure to yield the right of way and reckless driving. Road rage usually begins with aggressive driving, but includes physical assault stemming from a traffic dispute.

Analyzing more than 500,000 accident reports over the past decade collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration -- a representative sampling of all 24 million accidents reported from 1988 through 1997 -- USA Today found:

  • The rate of aggressive-driving accidents has remained virtually constant, accounting for one of every five crashes with injuries each year.
  • Over the past decade, aggressive driving has killed an average of 1,500 people each year, injured another 800,000 and cost roughly $24 billion annually in medical costs, property damage and lost work time.
  • The mix of accidents has changed, as the number of speeding accidents jumped 48 percent over the decade -- from 103,000 in 1988 to 153,000 in 1997 -- and other forms of aggressive driving, such as reckless driving, dropped.
  • However, the aggressive driving rate may be about to go up due to increased highway congestion, warn experts, since the number of miles driven has risen 35 percent while the miles of new roads built has increased just 1 percent.

The researchers found no gender differences in aggressive driving, with women driving about 43 percent of all miles driven and causing 43 percent of aggressive-driving crashes with injuries. But they did find a direct correlation between age and aggression, with drivers ages 16 to 24 causing 37 percent of aggressive-driving crashes, compared to their overall involvement in 27 percent of all accidents.

Source: Scott Bowles and Paul Overberg, "Aggressive Driving: a Road Well-Traveled," USA Today, November 23, 1998.


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