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Road rage – Is it getting worse?

road rage

Do you think there’s more road rage than there used to be? It’s reported that over three quarters of drivers have witnessed road rage and the proportion of road users threatened or harmed in an incident has doubled in 2 years. What are we getting upset about and why?

Road rage is too common

Road rage, defined as aggressive or angry behaviour such as insults and threats, is all too common in this country.

According to Compare the Market, over three quarters of respondents had witnessed road rage and 17.8% said it had been directed at them. Yet only 4.3% admitted they were road ragers (maybe not everyone was honest).

It appears Queensland is the road rage capital, as nearly a third were involved in an incident in the past year. NSW came second, with just over a quarter of respondents involved in road rage.

Interestingly, younger drivers – Gen Z or Millennials – were more likely to encounter road rage than Gen X and, especially, Baby Boomers. No explanation was given for the disparity, but perhaps it relates to more aggressive driving styles.

  • Gen Z               36.5%
  • Millennials      35.5%
  • Gen X               24.7%
  • Baby Boomers 19.1%

Male drivers more likely to be road ragers

Budget Direct recently found 51% of male drivers surveyed admit to aggressive behaviour on the road and 48% were in a road rage incident in 2023 (up from 38% in 2021).

More than half said they shouted, cursed or gestured at another driver (up from 40% in 2021). Of course, men drive a lot more for work and are more likely to encounter bad driving, congestion, or other hazards. Meanwhile, the proportion of road users threatened or harmed in a road rage incident has doubled in 2 years.

Strangely, half of those surveyed think Holden drivers are the most aggressive. This is in spite of only 8% of Australians owning one. However, 52% of people in NSW think BMW drivers are the most aggressive (only 7% of vehicle owners).

When asked whether anyone would cause them to be less aggressive, 40% named learner drivers and 16% of females named P platers. So it appears learners and P platers are expected to take road rage on the chin.

Road rage can kill

Unfortunately, we can’t measure the presence of road rage even if it kills someone. The increase in deaths and the death rate during 2023 in NSW could stem from an increase in aggressive driving but we don’t know:

  • 351 deaths up 70 and 25% more than in 2022.
  • Death rate was 4.21 per 100,000 population (3.44 for 2022).
  • 9,663 serious injuries were up 343 and 3.7% more than previous year.
  • Serious injury rate was 116.5 per 100,000 population, up from 114.1 in previous year.

What do we get upset about?

More of us are driving more often so there is more opportunity to get upset. Some 70% told Budget Direct they drive their vehicle daily (10% more than in 2021).

What sort of things do we get upset about?

  • Tailgating
  • Swerving in and out of lanes to get ahead
  • Ignoring cars that need to merge
  • Exceeding the speed limit
  • Travelling at snails pace
  • Not letting other people get in front
  • Someone else getting “our” parking spot (a big no no)
  • Crawling past roadworks (especially when no workers about).

We feel impatient

While most articles on road safety always mention the big three killers – speeding, alcohol and fatigue – they don’t mention impatience. Yet impatience could be the cause or the result of all three. Apparently we are hardwired to experience impatience to get things done. The feeling of patience is a secondary feeling.

Do today’s technologies encourage impatience, because they offer instant gratification? Meanwhile, there’s a culture of busyness and hyperfocus on our own needs and timetables.

Is there something about being inside a vehicle that intensifies this feeling of self-absorption? As academic Julia Powles says, “Behind the wheel, we assume a universal impatience, intolerance and entitlement. It simmers above the unspoken anxiety of not being able to park.”

Whatever is the reason for an increase in road rage, it makes the roads more dangerous for everyone. In the end, everyone could pay for road rage through higher insurance costs.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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