30 Shocking Road Rage Statistics for Drivers

January 5, 2023
30 Shocking Road Rage Statistics for Drivers

We have all felt annoyed and impatient while driving. But when that feeling escalates into anger-fueled actions, the situation can turn dangerous fast. Road rage is a crime that occurs when a driver intentionally takes aggressive, harmful actions against someone else on the road. The statistics below help illustrate the causes and shocking impacts of road rage in the United States.

If an angry driver’s dangerous actions behind the wheel have harmed you or someone you love, you may have the right to receive compensation. Contact an experienced a car accident lawyer who can explore your options and fight for your rights.

Aggressive Driving vs.Road Rage

The terms road rage and aggressive driving are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are distinct concepts.

Aggressive driving consists of any driving behavior that carelessly or recklessly endangers another driver, such as speeding, tailgating, or weaving in and out of lanes. Aggressive drivers do not necessarily mean to cause harm to others. However, they ignore the likely consequences of their dangerous actions. Law enforcement typically treats aggressive driving as a moving violation punishable by ticketing and a civil penalty, although aggressive drivers may face criminal liability if their conduct triggers an accident.

In contrast, road rage involves purposefully harmful driver behaviors. It occurs when a driver operates a vehicle in a manner intended to intimidate, threaten, or injure someone else on the road. Any of the aggressive driving actions listed above can constitute road rage if they are done with an intent to harm. Road rage can also take the form of even more extreme conduct like intentionally rear-ending, sideswiping, or shooting at another vehicle. Authorities virtually always treat road rage as a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment.

How Many Road Rage Fatalities are There Each Year?

Estimates vary of the number of fatalities linked to road rage every year; hard numbers are not easy to come by. But by all accounts, road rage fatalities represent a severe and growing problem in the United States, albeit one that remains relatively small compared to other risky driving behaviors like drunk driving, impaired driving, distracted driving, and drowsy driving.

On the low end of available estimates, a decades-old Pew Charitable Foundation reported a troubling rise in road rage incidents during the pandemic, citing unspecified data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that linked 446 crashes and 502 deaths to road rage in just one year. And a study conducted by the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety found that 131 people were shot and killed in road rage incidents in one year—the highest such tally on record and likely a fraction of the total number of road rage-related deaths that year (many of which assuredly did not involve gun violence).

Let’s not forget that non-fatal road rage incidents also cause severe trauma. The AAA study above estimated that road rage led to thousands of crash injuries per year. Little doubt that the number has grown along with the apparent rise in fatalities. According to the NHTSA’s Fatality and Injury Reporting System Tool (FIRST), one common road rage-related driving behavior—speeding— plays a role in hundreds of thousands of injury-causing crashes annually.

What Causes Road Rage

Numerous factors contribute to road rage, often working in combination. According to the NHTSA, traffic delays and congestion tend to trigger extreme driving behaviors. So do running late, drivers’ feelings of anonymity while inside a vehicle, drivers’ disregard for others’ safety or the law, and drivers’ habitual or clinical aggressiveness behind the wheel.

Knowing the causes of road rage, however, does not excuse it. Drivers stray far beyond the bounds of normal conduct when they engage in road rage behaviors. They can and should be held accountable to anyone harmed by their actions.

Here are some more surprising facts about the root causes of road rage:

Another angry man without seat belt

Young males are the most likely to perpetuate road rage.

APA

Teens mirror their parents’ bad driving habits in almost equal amounts.

Claims Journal

Traffic congestion is one of the most frequently cited reasons for aggressive driving.

IIHS

Men are more likely to honk, speed, or cut off other drivers, whereas women are more likely to swear, make a rude gesture, or intentionally tailgate.

Spark Plugs

Angry drivers get angry more easily and more frequently, are more likely to react impulsively, and express their feelings more aggressively.

PubMed

View of the wheel of a car going fast

High anger drivers drive at higher speeds and are twice as likely to crash in simulations.

PubMed

At least 94% of traffic crashes are caused by human error.

NHTSA

It’s possible to reduce road rage among high-anger drivers through a series of cognitive and relaxation techniques.

APA

Green traffic light with a cannabis leaf

People who use alcohol and drugs, including cannabis, are more likely to experience road rage.

PubMed

People who cover their cars in stickers and other adornments are more likely to engage in road rage behavior.

Wiley Online Library

Studies have revealed that feeling anonymity while driving contributes to road rage.

NHTSA

Road Rage Facts

More drivers are on the road now than ever before, contributing to the growing problem of road rage. An estimated 80 percent of Americans frequently express significant anger while driving. Many do not realize that road rage is a criminal offense.

Traffic accident between a car and a bicycle

A study analyzed 10,000 road rage incidents over 7 years and found they caused at least 218 murders and 12,610 injury cases.

AAA

56% of fatal crashes from 2003 to 2007 involved aggressive driving and speeding was the most common factor.

III

Road rage incidents involving firearms more than doubled between 2014 and 2016.

The Trace

The increase in road rage incidents may be due to the fact that there are more drivers on the road driving more miles than ever before.

IIHS

4% of drivers admit they’ve gotten out of their car to confront another driver.

AAA

Traffic police taking the driver's license

50% of drivers who experience road rage respond with aggressive behavior.

NHTSA

Drivers with guns in the car are more likely to make obscene gestures and aggressively follow other drivers.

Harvard Injury Control Research Center

Nearly 90% of drivers feel that aggressive drivers are a “somewhat” or “very serious” threat to their safety.

AAA

8 in 10 Americans express significant anger, road rage, or aggression at least once a month, according to a recent study.

AAA

people arguing after an accident

3% of drivers, or an estimated 6 million Americans, admit to hitting another car on purpose in a fit of rage.

AAA

Road Rage Death Statistics

Sadly, road rage can and does lead to death. These worst case scenarios may involve intentional murder or be the cause of traffic collisions that lead to death. Offenders can be charged criminally for these acts.

Busy street crossing

Fatal accidents occur most commonly at rush hour, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

NHTSA

Road rage fatalities increased 500% in 10 years and are still on the rise.

NHTSA

In 2016, the U.S. averaged 1 death a day attributed to road rage.

NHTSA

Baby boomers cause just 8.2% of fatal aggressive driving accidents, whereas millennials are involved in more than half.

NHTSA

Aggressive actions such as tailgating, illegal passing, and erratic lane changing are a factor in an estimated 56% of fatal crashes.

AAA

State and Local Road Rage Statistics

State and local law enforcement agencies have the unenviable task of policing road rage. Laws and ordinances, like speed limits, gun regulations, and statutes specifically targeting aggressive driving give them tools to try to reduce (or at least punish) road rage incidents. But according to the NHTSA, laws alone cannot effectively prevent road rage.

In some states, legal rules like Stand Your Ground might even encourage motorists to act aggressively when they feel another driver has targeted them.

Here are some notable facts about road rage in states and municipalities around the country.

Judge's hammer

11 U.S. states have passed laws against aggressive driving.

GHSA

Drivers in the state of Texas are allowed to drive up to speeds of 85 mph.

IIHS

Over the past 25 years, rising state speed limits have cost nearly 37,000 lives.

IIHS

Florida led the nation in road rage incidents from 2014 to 2016 with 147 incidents reported.

The Trace

In Utah, there were 31 reported road rage incidents in 2020.

UHP

How to Prevent Road Rage and Stay Calm Behind the Wheel

Want to make sure you never become one of those angry drivers discussed above?

Here are some tips to stay calm and practice mindfulness behind the wheel.

How to De-escalate a Road Rage Incident

Although road rage drivers deserve all the blame for the harm their conduct causes, it pays to take steps to keep yourself safe if you encounter an angry motorist.

Here are some tips for de-escalating a road rage incident that puts you in harm’s way.

  1. Don’t return rude gestures : In the heat of the moment, it can be hard not to be reactionary — but resist the urge to return rude gestures and take the high road instead. This will hopefully stop an angry driver’s mood from worsening.
  2. Apologetically wave but avoid eye contact: Mishaps on the road happen. If you’ve done something to upset a nearby driver, apologetically wave to signal that you’re sorry and you’re acknowledging your mistake. Because eye contact can be seen as aggressive, focus your attention on the road ahead as you wave.
  3. Put distance between you and the other driver: If you feel like you’re being tailgated or targeted by another driver, safely switch lanes. Hopefully, this lands you in a slower lane and they breeze past you.
  4. Take less crowded routes: Congestion is a common factor in most aggressive driving incidents, as people are more likely to get irritated while sitting in traffic. If possible, take a less traveled way home, even if this means adding a few minutes to your commute.
  5. Plan ahead and leave early: You won’t be speeding to your next stop if you’re not in a rush to get there. Traffic and other roadblocks are an inevitable part of driving, so give yourself time to handle unexpected delays with ease.
Woman driving calmly

Tips for Staying Calm While Driving

Want to make sure you never become one of those angry drivers discussed above? Here are tips to stay calm and practice mindfulness behind the wheel.

  1. Get a good night’s sleep the night before: 40% of drivers have fallen asleep behind the wheel. Driving tired increases the risk of a crash and makes drivers more irritable.
  2. Use scents to boost your mood: Air fresheners and essential oils can create a spa-like effect in your car. Lavender and vanilla scents aid in relaxation and citrus increases alertness while curbing anxiety.
  3. Adjust your car settings before you start the engine: Hitting the highway sitting too far away from the driver’s wheel is a surefire way to give yourself anxiety and stress. Take a few moments before each ride to make sure your seat and mirrors are in the right position.
  4. Maintain a clean car: Keeping your car clean will instill pride while also fighting off feelings of anxiety and stress. A good rule of thumb is to empty all of the trash out of your car each time you stop for gas.
  5. Sit in silence or turn on low frequency sounds: While listening to loud music can help a trip go by faster, it also increases distractions and can get your heart rate up. Instead, try sitting in silence or if that feels unsettling, turn on nature sounds or a podcast.
  6. Practice deep breathing exercises: If you feel your mind start to wander or your blood start to boil, refocus your intention with deep breathing exercises. Count from 1 to 10 before you give any energy to other drivers on the road, then decide how to respond.
  7. Unclench your jaw and relax your fists: Your muscles and joints can contribute to feelings of stress and anger. Make sure you aren’t gripping your steering wheel too tight and unclench your jaw when you start to feel annoyed at nearby drivers.
  8. Be kind: When driving, it’s easy to “thingify” other vehicles but this can increase feelings of anger. Instead, practice compassion and remind yourself there’s another driver behind the wheel of every vehicle — perhaps someone who just got sad news or is rushing home to a family.

Road rage is a serious and growing problem in the U.S.. Avoid raging drivers and stop yourself from contributing to the issue by practicing compassion and mindfulness. If you are the victim of a road rage incident, remember to seek legal advice to find out if you’re entitled to compensation.

Matthew Dolman

Clearwater Personal Injury and Insurance Attorney

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess or $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

Learn More