Shift and Shout: Is Driving While Angry as Dangerous as it Seems?

Every time a person travels in a car, they are taking part in an inherently dangerous practice. The World Health Organization reported in 2015 that there are 1.23 million fatalities in traffic each year, making car crashes a major cause of death and injury.  

Researchers in Valencia, Spain conducted a study in 2017 to determine if shouting and insulting other drivers, which may precede aggressive driving, contribute to unsafe driving.  They also wanted to learn if drivers perceived these behaviors as dangerous.  They predicted higher aggressiveness and hostility would lead to more traffic offenses and accidents and a higher rate of recurring incidents.   Participants in the study were licensed drivers chosen at random to mirror local census information.  Research staff interviewed them over the telephone, and they answered questions relating to driving safety and behavior. 

Less than 10 percent of the participants reported shouting or insulting other drivers always or many times, while nearly half said they never did.  The most common reason for shouting given by participants related to poor driving skills of other drivers and perceived danger while driving.

Brian Svoboda, who commutes to work during rush hour, often sees evidence of frustrated drivers.  “I often see other drivers making rude gestures and flailing their hands,” he said when asked what type of actions he has witnessed from other drivers.  “They honk their horns and cut people off sometimes.”

When compared to other types of aggressive driving, shouting, or using insults is not considered to be as dangerous as other actions such as tailgating or driving under the influence.  The participants who considered it least dangerous were also more likely to report engaging in the behavior.

The researchers recommend further study into how frustration and anxiety contribute to aggressive driving and the development of intervention strategies that could help drivers avoid such behavior.

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