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Based on our analysis of fatal crash data from 2003 through 2007, we found that potentially- aggressive actions, including speeding, failure to yield the right of way, reckless driving, and the others discussed previously, were reported in 56 percent of fatal crashes. The fact that 56 percent of fatal crashes involved such actions—even if not all of them were committed intentionally and with aggressive motivations—speaks volumes about the great need for traffic safety cultural change.

To more fully understand aggressive driving, future research is needed using other methods, such as naturalistic driving studies, where the psychological state can be assessed at least to some extent by measures such as galvanic skin response, as well as studies that are more qualitative in nature, which can explore behavior and delve into associated psychological states.

It is very important for drivers to honestly assess their own driving practices. To be truly safe and responsible drivers, people must discard notions that they can safely perform unsafe behaviors because of their above average skills, and they must stop simply “blaming the other guy.” Helping motorists understand the scope and magnitude of aggressive driving and other inappropriate behaviors, and instilling an appreciation for the magnitude of the threat posed by these acts, is a vital first step in achieving the positive traffic safety culture we envision.

Key Points

9 Surveys consistently show that people believe aggressive driving is one of the most serious traffic safety problems.

9 In the AAA Foundation’s 2008 Traffic Safety Culture Index, 78 percent of respondents rated aggressive drivers as a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem, yet nearly half of these same people reported exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on major highways in the past 30 days. Substantial numbers also admitted accelerating to try to beat traffic lights, honking at other drivers, tailgating and pressuring other drivers to speed up, illustrating the AAA Foundation’s “Do as I say, not as I do” critique of the prevailing driving culture.

9 Driving in excess of the speed limit or too fast for conditions is a major contributor to aggressive driving and is a contributing factor in nearly one of every three fatal crashes.

9 As many as 56 percent of deadly crashes involve one or more unsafe driving behaviors typically associated with aggressive driving.

9 It is very important for drivers to honestly assess their own driving practices.

9 Helping motorists understand the threat posed by aggressive driving and other inappropriate behaviors is a vital first step in achieving a positive traffic safety culture.


© 2009, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

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