American Aggressive Driving
Obnoxious. Pushy. Combative. Whatever you call these drivers, you’ve surely encountered them on the road at some point or another. But what actions cross the line from simply rude to flat-out aggressive? Is one state’s aggressive driving simply another state’s norm? And how do opinions vary among different age groups, genders, and drivers of certain vehicles?
To get a handle on how Americans feel about aggressive drivers, we surveyed 2,000 drivers on the subject. They shared their feelings about everything from horn honking to hand gestures – and some of the results just might surprise you. Keep reading for the uncensored truth about anger and courtesy on the road.
What Is Aggressive Driving?
Just what does aggressive driving entail? We presented survey respondents with an array of behind-the-wheel behaviors and asked them to rank them on a scale of 0 (harmless) to 3 (aggressive), with inconsiderate and bad driving falling in the middle. The acts deemed most aggressive came with threats of physical harm: ramming a vehicle, trying to run a car off the road, wielding a weapon, and making sudden moves.
Running a red light, preventing a fellow driver from passing or merging, and making a rude hand gesture fell in the middle. Playing loud music was ranked least threatening of all, followed by driving slowly down the left lane, honking, and scowling at other drivers.
Bad Drivers in the Busiest States
No interstate rivalries come into play here: We asked drivers in the four most populous states to rank the skill levels of their own state’s drivers – and the results are in! Who’s the worst? Florida drivers get the lowest ratings, followed by Texas and California. On the other hand, New Yorkers take the cake when it comes to skillful driving.
Courteous Drivers in the Busiest States
When it comes to exhibiting kindness on the road, it turns out Southern gentility rules: Among the four most populous states, drivers from the Lone Star State awarded fellow Texans the highest scores for their courteous driving. However, New York drivers – honk! “Get out of the way, bud!” – were deemed the rudest. California and Florida fall in the middle of the polite-driver pack.
Vehicle Types and Aggressive Driving Opinions
Does the type of car someone drives affect his or her outlook on fellow drivers’ behavior? Drivers of pickup trucks and compact cars are the most likely to consider it harmless when fellow motorists blast music; luxury car drivers, on the other hand, are by far the aptest to find it aggressive. What about horn honking? Drivers of luxury vehicles and sports cars are likeliest to deem honking the horn harmless, while hybrid car drivers are the most likely to think it is aggressive.
People driving hybrids and sports cars are the most likely to rate flipping the bird or other rude hand gestures aggressive, while drivers of minivans were the most apt to find them harmless. As for tailgating, hybrid and sports car drivers are the likeliest to find the risky act harmless, while drivers of pickup trucks think following too closely is an aggressive act.
Rudeness While Driving in Private and Public
Everyone feels annoyed behind the wheel sometimes. But there’s a big difference between swearing under your breath and cursing loudly at another driver. Over 21 percent of our respondents admit they swear at other drivers daily – but only under their breath. Another 26.5 percent do so weekly, and over 21 percent hurl quiet profanities around once a month. Just over 12 percent say they’ve never been uncivil on the road.
On the other hand, only 1.6 percent swear loudly or make offensive hand gestures to other drivers every day. Just over 5 percent are publicly rude around once a week, while just under 9 percent lash out around once a month. However, nearly 54 percent say they’ve never cursed or flipped the bird at a fellow driver.
Car Color and Behind-the-Wheel Aggression
As marketers know, color is powerful: It can affect a person’s mood and even raise or lower blood pressure. But does the color of a person’s car affect how colorful their behavior is behind the wheel?
An assessment of personality based on car color by a color consultant and trend forecaster asserted that drivers of black cars are “powerful” and “elegant” – but our survey revealed that they are the most likely to honk their horn or chew out other drivers. “Outgoing” and “dynamic,” red car owners ranked second for likeliness to get angry, followed by otherwise “calm” or “confident” drivers of blue cars.
Interestingly, our survey revealed that drivers of yellow cars (who tend to be “joyful,” according to the color expert) are by far the least likely to behave angrily toward other drivers.
Aggressive Driving Across Generations
People from each generation have unique traits and outlooks – including their views on aggressive driving. Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70) are by far most likely to deem loud music aggressive and inconsiderate, while older millennials (ages 25 to 34) are aptest to find it harmless.
Interestingly, younger millennials (ages 18 to 24) are the most likely to view honking as aggressive, while Generation Xers (ages 35-51) are least likely to consider it aggressive.
When it comes to rude hand gestures, again younger millennials are the most likely to feel that flipping the bird is an act of aggression. Baby Boomers are much less likely than every other generation to think it’s harmless, but they do not feel quite as threatened by the gesture.
Courtesy and Rudeness on the Road
Finally, we asked respondents to open up about the behavior they see on the road every day. The verdict? Just under one-fifth of people encounter offensive drivers (who refuse to let them change lanes or merge) virtually every day. Another 36.5 percent run into the issue at least once a week.
As for courteous drivers who slow to let people change lanes or merge? Just over 16 percent experience this daily, while nearly 47 percent encounter kindness on the road once a week. It’s clear in this situation at least, that courtesy rules.
Dealing With Aggressive Drivers
As our survey reveals, definitions of harmless and aggressive driving can vary widely. Among factors that might color our opinions? Location, age, gender – and perhaps even the type and color of our own cars!
You can model courteous behavior on the road, but you can’t change other drivers’ behavior – however, you’re in charge of how you respond. If you encounter a driver who is behaving aggressively, try to avoid them at all costs. Don’t respond to gestures or even look at them. If the situation escalates, call 9-1-1 to provide a vehicle description and travel location.
Your behavior (and responses to bad behavior) can go a long way toward making the road a safer place for everyone.
We surveyed 2,089 drivers in the U.S. between May 12 and May 15, 2016. Respondents were between the ages of 18 and 75 and came from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. They were 47.5% female and 52.5% male.
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