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Look Out: There Are 160 Million Angry Drivers on the Road

Shocker: Men in AAA survey were far likelier than women to ram another car. Northeastern drivers were especially excitable.

Summer is driving season—and, it appears, fuming, cursing, and ramming season as well. 

In a survey released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 78 percent of the approximately 205 million drivers in the U.S. reported expressing significant anger, aggression, or plain old road rage in the past year.

More than half reported purposely tailgating, and 47 percent said they had yelled at another driver. About 3 percent said they had bumped another vehicle on purpose. That may not seem like a lot, until you consider that it's 5.7 million drivers. About 4 percent (7.6 million drivers) reported that they had gotten out of the car to confront another driver.

Shocker: AAA found that men were more than three times as likely as women to ram another vehicle on purpose or get out of the car to confront another driver. The data also suggested that drivers from the Northeast are almost 30 percent more likely to make an angry gesture than other drivers. (You know, New York values.)

Almost two-thirds of the drivers surveyed said aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago, and about 90 percent said aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their personal safety. This was the first time AAA measured the behavior. 

To collect the data, AAA administered a national survey to 2,705 licensed drivers who reported driving in the past 30 days, then used statistical weighting so the sample was more representative of the overall population of drivers.

“Some of the findings were pretty astonishing,” said Jurek Grabowski, director of research for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The one that kind of shocked everybody here was that 78 percent of U.S. drivers engaged in at least one aggressive behavior in the past year.”

"The attitudes of drivers are competitive and intolerant," said Leon James, a psychology professor at the University of Hawaii and co-author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. He said the survey responses sounded about right, and cited more drivers and more construction on the road.

"My view is that road rage and aggressive driving is a cultural habit learned in childhood and from the media (movies, commercials)," James said in an e-mail. "This means that each generation will be more aggressive than the previous one."

Because of the self-reporting, the data probably underestimate the true statistics, Grabowski said, since “a lot of people tend to report their best behavior.”

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