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


NHTSA People Saving People
DOT HS 808 705

April 1998

Introduction

Background

Method

Findings

Detailed Findings

General Discussion

Specific Issues

APPENDIX A

APPENDIX B

 

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 Driving

As noted earlier in this report, there were distinctive differences in perceptions between the three sessions composed of a general mix of drivers and the two that were designed to represent aggressive drivers. To fully understand their perspective on other issues, it is helpful to compare the answers of drivers included in the "aggressive" groups to those in the "general" groups on the questions used to qualify drivers for inclusion in the aggressive groups.

The first two questions were designed to measure frequency of getting angry in driving situations. Although nearly all of the participants in both groups said they get angry when they are cut off by another driver at least sometimes, 55 percent of participants in the aggressive groups often or always get angry compared to only 37 percent of the general drivers. Only 38 percent of participants in the general groups admit that passengers sometimes tell them to calm down compared to 65 percent of the participants in the aggressive groups.

Participants in the aggressive groups also have a greater tendency to be impatient. Nearly all participants (95 percent) in the aggressive groups admitted that they often or always get impatient when behind schedule. This compares with only 33 percent in the general groups. Similarly, 80 percent of participants in the aggressive groups get impatient when the car ahead slows down compared to 32 percent of the participants in the general groups.

On two questions designed to measure competitiveness, the question that asked how often they compete with other cars in traffic jams was discriminating. In the aggressive groups, 75 percent of the participants admitted that they often or always compete and none said they never do. The proportions are almost reversed in the general groups where 78 percent claim they never compete and the remainder admit to competing only sometimes. Only two of the 52 participants stated that they sometimes drag race at stop lights, and both were in Group 5.

There also was a difference between the general and aggressive groups on two questions designed to measure vindictiveness or actions taken to punish other drivers. Half of the aggressive drivers said they block cars trying to pass at least sometimes. This compares with only 19 percent of the general drivers. In the aggressive group, 40 percent sometimes block cars trying to change lanes compared to only 10 percent in the general groups.

Although there was a continuum of aggressiveness scores in both the general and aggressive groups (a third of the participants in general groups had scores that could have placed them in the aggressive groups), there was a discernible qualitative difference between the groups on a number of issues. It was noticed by the moderator and observers, as well as by the participants themselves. There were occasions in both of the aggressive groups where participants talked in terms of "us" and "them." When Group 4 was asked directly how many would confess to being aggressive at times, all but one raised their hands. The one man who did not raise his hand scored just over the threshold of qualification for an aggressive group. Later, he said, "If keeping people from cutting in line ahead of me are included, I am aggressive." Almost all members of Group 5 also admitted to being aggressive drivers.

The moderator asked Group 4 how they defined aggressive driving. One of the men simply gestured to the list of Beltway crash causes they had completed. Individual behaviors they named were weaving from lane to lane, cutting others off, tailgating, speeding, showing off, not allowing cars to merge in front of them and getting angry at other drivers. Everyone laughed when the moderator asked how many of them ever got angry on the Beltway. When asked how many ever made an obscene gesture to another driver, several said "Not any more." The implication was that they worry about retaliation.

Table 5. Responses to Aggressiveness Screening Questions.

Screening Question General Drivers Aggressive Drivers
Number Percent Number Percent
You get angry when cut off ... Always (3)
3 9% 2 10%
Often (2) 9 28% 9 45%
Sometimes (1) 18 56% 9 45%
Never (0) 2 6% 0 0%
Passengers tell you to calm down ... Always (3)
0 0% 0 0%
Often (2) 0 0% 2 10%
Sometimes (1) 12 38% 11 55%
Never (0) 20 63% 7 35%
You get impatient when behind schedule ... Always (3)
4 13% 6 30%
Often (2) 6 19% 13 65%
Sometimes (1) 19 59% 1 5%
Never (0) 3 9% 0 0%
You get impatient when the car ahead slows down ... Always (3)
2 6% 3 15%
Often (2) 5 16% 13 65%
Sometimes (1) 14 44% 4 20%
Never (0) 11 34% 0 0%
You compete with other cars in traffic jams ... Always (3)
0 0% 2 10%
Often (2) 0 0% 13 65%
Sometimes (1) 7 22% 5 25%
Never (0) 25 78% 0 0%
You drag race at stop lights ... Always (3)
0 0% 0 0%
Often (2) 0 0% 0 0%
Sometimes (1) 0 0% 2 10%
Never (0) 32 100% 18 90%
You block cars trying to pass ... Always (3)
0 0% 0 0%
Often (2) 0 0% 1 5%
Sometimes (1) 6 19% 9 45%
Never (0) 26 81% 10 50%
You block cars trying to change lanes ... Always (3)
0 0% 0 0%
Often (2) 0 0% 0 0%
Sometimes (1) 3 9% 8 40%
Never (0) 29 91% 12 60%