U. S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

NHTSA People Saving People
DOT HS 808 705

April 1998





Detailed Findings

General Discussion

Specific Issues



List of Tables
1 Composition of Beltway Driver Groups
2 How Participants Use the Beltway
3 Perceived Causes of Beltway Crashes
4 Perceived Causes of Beltway Crashes - Commercial Drivers
5 Responses to Aggressiveness Screening Questions

List of Figures
1 Questionnaire Responses - General vs. Aggressive Drivers

Aggressive Drivers Are Often Competitive

A battery of questions asked how often motorists got angry, were impatient, were competitive or punished other drivers in driving situations. While almost all drivers said they at least sometimes got angry when another car cut them off, or felt impatient if they were behind schedule, there were some clear differences in whether they engaged in competitive or vindictive actions.

Figure 1. Questionnaire Responses - General vs. Aggressive Drivers.

The most discriminating question was how often participants compete with other cars in traffic jams. Seventy-five percent of the participants in the aggressive driver groups said they "always" or "often" compete while none of the participants in the "general" groups compete that frequently. Drivers in the aggressive group also said they more frequently got angry when cut off, had passengers tell them to calm down, blocked other cars trying to pass, and blocked cars trying to change lanes. One woman called driving on the Beltway "A competitive sport." Aggressive drivers spoke differently from the general drivers. Both groups blame much of the unsafe driving on the Beltway on the "other driver." General groups expressed dismay at specific unsafe driving maneuvers that make them nervous on the Beltway -- the drivers who speed, change lanes frequently, cut them off, and force their way ahead. Aggressive drivers, on the other hand, blame those who are going too slow in the passing lane, cars at the speed limit who "force" them to change lanes and weave in and out of traffic. As one young woman phrased it, "Get out of my way, please."

Aggressive drivers also admitted to going much faster than the general groups -- at speeds of 60-70 during non-peak hours. They think that is a safe speed and that cars going 55 mph should be in the slow lanes. They speak of "Left Lane Etiquette." One young man said "If I'm going 80 mph in the fast lane and someone comes up behind me, I should move out of his way." They think slower drivers are the problem.

Interestingly, the aggressive drivers think there should be a minimum speed limit on the Beltway and it should be 55 mph. The general groups thought a minimum speed limit should be set at about 40 mph.

While the aggressive drivers are moving at speed to get to their destination, they express annoyance at other drivers who hinder their progress. Paradoxically, the aggressive drivers will go out of their way to block another car trying to pass or cut in front of them.