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percent. Of the 8,348 crashes involving more than two vehicles, potentially-aggressive actions were coded for only one driver in 91.6 percent of these crashes, two drivers in 6.9 percent, and more than two drivers in 1.5 percent.

A total of 119,475 people were killed in crashes involving potentially-aggressive actions. Of these, 67,223 (56.3%) were those drivers themselves (i.e., drivers coded as having committed potentially-aggressive actions), 25,799 (21.6%) were their passengers, and 26,453 (22.1%) were occupants of other vehicles and non-motorists.

Some previous research has suggested that young male drivers are more likely than others to engage in aggressive driving behaviors. To investigate this, potentially-aggressive actions were tabulated by driver age and gender. When analyzed with respect to age, the proportion of fatal-crash-involved drivers for whom any potentially-aggressive actions were coded decreased steadily with increasing age from the teenage years through about age 60, before increasing again. For example, 58.8 percent of 16-year-old drivers, 35.3 percent of 35-year-old drivers, and 26.5 percent of 60-year-old drivers had any potentially-aggressive actions coded. Among drivers in their teens, twenties, and thirties, male drivers were substantially more likely than female drivers to have potentially-aggressive factors coded; however, this trend narrows considerably for drivers over about age forty.

The proportion of drivers with potentially-aggressive factors coded increased steadily from ages in the mid-sixties through the very oldest ages; however, other studies suggest that this is due to older drivers’ increased propensity toward committing errors, rather than a tendency to drive aggressively. More in-depth examination of the data tends to support this hypothesis. Arguably, behaviors such as speeding and driving carelessly or recklessly are likely to be committed willfully, whereas failure to yield right of way may be more likely to be committed accidentally, for example, due to inattention, confusion, or an error in judging the speed or distance of another vehicle. The proportion of drivers coded as speeding or driving carelessly or recklessly decreased steadily with increasing age across the entire age spectrum, whereas the proportion coded as failing to yield the right of way increased dramatically at the older ages.

Discussion According to the definition of aggressive driving that we propose here, whether or not an action constitutes aggressive driving is conditional upon a driver’s intent, but because information about the driver’s intent is not available in the data analyzed here, we cannot determine whether or not these crashes truly involved a driver who was deliberately driving aggressively. Thus, while the data indicate that up to 56 percent of the fatal crashes analyzed here involved potentially-aggressive driving actions, this may to some degree overestimate the true prevalence of aggressive driving in fatal crashes.


© 2009, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

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