Automobiles have provided countless benefits over the past century. For individuals, the rise of the automobile has translated into the development of personal mobility (and thus increased opportunities for economic and social growth), freedom, power, material ownership, status, security, and for many, a sense of territory and personal space. With these increases comes a continual growth of new opportunities for drivers to become angered by what they may perceive as threats, injustices, and frustrations created by other drivers and to respond aggressively.
Automobile accidents are responsible for staggering costs to society both in human and economic terms. In the U.S. alone in 2006, there were nearly six-million police-reported motor vehicle traffic accidents that resulted in 1.75 million injuries and 38,588 deaths. The economic costs for these traffic accidents is estimated at over $230 billion which translates to nearly 2% of our gross national product.
Although current official government crash statistics do not make specific attributions regarding the role and prevalence of aggressive driving acts per se causing automobile accidents, top causes of crashes in the U.S. in 2006 include: “Failure to keep in proper lane,” “Driving too fast,” “Failure to yield right of way,” and “Operating vehicle in erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner.” All of these are what accident research pioneer H.L. Ross referred to as “human factors” similar to those he found to be responsible for 90% of accidents—many resulting in injury or death—in his ground-breaking study of over 58,000 driving incidents in Michigan in 1940.
More recent attempts to estimate the role of aggressive driving in U.S. accidents include Ricardo Martinez, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) who reported to Congress that aggressive driving could be equated with alcohol-impaired driving in its contribution to motor vehicle accidents (MVA’s) and estimated that nearly two-thirds of roadway deaths can be blamed on aggressive driving. The prior year, the authors of a study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded that for the years spanning 1990-1996 over 1500 people per year died as a result of aggressive driving, and countless more suffered injuries—many involving devastating brain damage, limb amputation, and paralysis. A report by the automobile insurance industry claimed that half of all MVA’s are the result of aggressive driving.
Overall there is agreement among researchers that aggressive driving—especially those acts motivated by anger and intended to threaten or harm other drivers—represents a significant proportion of automobile accidents, injuries, and deaths and warrants further study with the goal of developing and implementing effective solutions.
More to come…