Most fatal auto crashes result from aggressive driving - “road rage” - and the danger of being killed by angry or frazzled drivers will increase as congestion worsens on U.S. roads, transportation officials told Congress on Thursday.
“Aggressive driving is taking its toll on America’s highways, and these drivers must be stopped,” Ricardo Martinez, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told a House transportation subcommittee.
Road rage, or stress-induced aggression behind the wheel, has contributed to an increase in highway deaths over the last four years, reversing a steady decline earlier in the decade, according to Martinez.
In 1996, one-third of total crashes and two-thirds of auto deaths were attributed to road rage, he said.
Stressed-out drivers are more likely to speed, tailgate, fail to yield, weave in and out of traffic, pass on the right, make unsafe lane changes, run stop signs and red lights, make hand and facial gestures, scream, honk or flash their lights, he said.
Allan Williams, senior vice-president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reported that at a typical Arlington, Va., intersection, a car runs a red light every 12 minutes. During rush hour, a motorist runs a red light every 5 minutes, he said.
Most aggressive drivers are ordinary people who undergo a psychological change when they get behind the wheel and experience stress, according to David Snyder, a lawyer for the American Insurance Association.
“The anonymity that a car provides shields these drivers from having their identities readily revealed,” said Snyder. “Consequently, when behind the wheel, these drivers disregard the level of civility expected by members of our society and drive with reckless abandon.”
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