Although studies of aggressive driving have defined the issue in a number of different ways, most suggest that young males are more likely than other demographic groups to drive in ways that may be considered aggressive or dangerous. Some studies suggest that individual differences in personality play a significant role in one’s propensity toward aggressive or dangerous driving, and that people who drive aggressively are more likely than others to have other psychiatric or behavioral issues outside the specific context of driving. In contrast, others point out that very polite and well-mannered people, who wouldn’t even think of cutting in line at the grocery store or doing other rude behaviors, act very rude and aggressive when behind the steering wheel, including late merges to cut in line. Studies have also found aggressive behavior increases under states of stress and that certain driving situations such as traffic congestion can evoke stress. Moreover, it is important to recognize that an aggressive driving act by one driver can trigger a disproportionate response, sometimes even escalating to the level of “road rage,” which is a criminal act of assault which may stem from a confrontation that occurred on the road.
Given the Foundation’s efforts to change the traffic safety culture in the United States, it is extremely important to remind motorists of the scope of aggressive driving, and to recognize that is unacceptable and represents a serious traffic safety problem.
Defining Aggressive Driving
Traditionally, the traffic safety community has defined and attempted to measure aggressive driving in a variety of ways. Some studies of aggressive driving have focused on specific driving behaviors, such as speeding, tailgating, or violating traffic control devices, which are commonly thought of as behaviors typically associated with aggressive driving. Other studies have distinguished between aggressive driving behaviors and driving behaviors that may be dangerous but not necessarily aggressive on the basis of the driver’s intentions. Finally, studies have investigated acts of assault committed by drivers against other drivers with the intent of causing physical harm, which is a criminal act often referred to as “road rage,” and is considered to be distinct from aggressive driving due to the intentionality of the harm that it may cause. In this paper, we focus on aggressive driving, and have not attempted to investigate criminal acts of “road rage.”
In a review of published literature on aggressive driving, Tasca (2000) outlined some general criteria for a precise definition of aggressive driving, and proposed the formal definition: “A driving behavior is aggressive if it is deliberate, likely to increase the risk of collision and is motivated by impatience, annoyance, hostility, and/or an attempt to save time” (pg. 2). Tasca further provides a list of examples of specific behaviors that would meet his proposed definition, including: tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, failure to yield the right of way to
© 2009, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety