3 in 10 Americans say they’ve been victims of road rage in the last 2 years

Plus, 46% say they’ve seen an increase in aggressive driving during the pandemic, while 57% say they’ve witnessed angry driving firsthand

Illustrated woman in car being yelled at by angry drivers behind her.

Natalie Nelson

Andrew Hurst

By 

Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Published April 7, 2022

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Despite a 13% drop in road travel during the first year of the pandemic, [1] roads have actually gotten more dangerous over the last two years: more traffic deaths, [2] more speeding, more violence, [3] and a rise in aggressive driving.

According to a new survey from Policygenius conducted by YouGov, three in 10 people (30%) say theyve been victims of angry or aggressive driving in the U.S. over the last two years, while 57% say they’ve witnessed incidents of angry driving firsthand during the same timeframe.

How did we define road rage? Policygenius included the following behaviors in our definition of angry driving or “road rage”: deliberately following another car too closely, changing lanes quickly without a signal to prevent another car from passing, and making verbal or physical gestures to other drivers.

Key takeaways

  • In the past two years, 30% of Americans report being victims of road rage. People age 18-34 are the most likely to have been victims (40%), compared to other age groups.

  • Nearly two times as many people (57%) have witnessed angry driving during those two years. In the Western United States, 64% of people witnessed incidents of road rage — the most of any region.

  • 46% of Americans said they believe angry driving has happened more frequently since the start of the pandemic, with 34% saying they’ve seen an increase over the past two years while another 12% think incidents have happened more often, but only in the past year.

  • 48% of people claimed to engage in at least one form of road rage-related behavior. Many Americans admitted to shouting at other drivers or using their horns for long periods of time (25%), making criticizing or threatening gestures (24%), tailgating (12%), purposefully cutting off or blocking others (12%), chasing other drivers (5%), and getting out of their car to confront others (5%). 

  • A surprising 56% of people believe angry driving is justified at least part of the time. Among respondents age 18 to 34, 70% believe that angry driving can be justified at least part of the time — the highest of any group. Men are slightly more likely than women to believe that angry driving can be justified (57% to 54%).

30% of Americans have been victims of road rage in the past two years

“Americans don’t seem to like each other very much right now,” says Ryan Miller, a professor and associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who studies aggressive driving. He attributes the apparent rise of angry driving to stress from the pandemic and the country’s political climate.

“When you put [people] in a situation where they have to cooperate, it brings that anger out,” he says. Public roads, where drivers have to be around other cars, are the perfect setting for these frustrations to boil over. 

More than any other age group, 40% of younger adults (age 18 to 34) said they were victims of road rage over the past two years. We also found that men were more likely than women (32% compared to 29%, respectively) to say they were victims of angry driving during that span of time.

Geographically, people living in the western part of the U.S. were most likely to have had an encounter with an angry driver: nearly four out of every 10 people (39%).

Many Americans think aggressive driving has become more common during the pandemic

Rising incidents of road rage aren’t going unnoticed: 57% of people say they witnessed at least one incident of aggressive driving in the past two years. Additionally, a total of 46% of adults in the U.S. said they have noticed more acts of angry driving in the last two years than in previous years. Since the start of the pandemic, 34% of people said they have noticed more acts of angry driving, while 12% think angry driving incidents have increased only in the past year.

Similar numbers of people age 18 to 34 (60%) and 34 to 54 (63%) witnessed aggressive driving in the past two years. On the other hand, only half of Americans age 55 and up said they’ve witnessed incidents of road rage. 

While those in the 55+ group were least likely to witness road rage in the past two years, members of this demographic are also the most likely (49%) to believe it’s gotten more common in the past two years. 

While victimized by others, drivers commonly admit to driving angrily themselves

It’s possible for someone to act aggressively toward others on the road even if they also believe they’ve been the victim of road rage themselves. That may be because when they’re the ones being aggressive, it’s easy for many people to think to themselves, “[the other person] had it coming, they were acting dangerously,” Miller says.

Policygenius found that parents of young children were more likely to have acted aggressively behind the wheel than those with adult children or adults without any children. More than half of parents with children younger than 18 years old (53%) admitted to at least one form of road rage. This is higher than those without children (46% admitting to road rage) and those with children older than 18 (49%).

While 30% of all people claimed that they had been victims of aggressive drivers, 48% were able to name at least one road rage-related act they themselves had done. This includes 54% of men and 54% of people age 35 to 54 years old.

While not very common, some drivers admit to serious forms of angry driving

One person we polled admitted to throwing pennies out of their sunroof at another driver, but most commonly, people admitted to shouting at another driver or using their horns for an extended period of time (25%), while 24% said they made criticizing or threatening gestures at others. Fewer people admitted to more serious acts of intimidation.

12% of Americans said they drove closely behind someone else to intimidate them, and the same percentage purposefully cut off or blocked another driver from passing them. Finally, 5% said they’ve chased another driver — the same percentage that have exited their vehicles to confront another person.

More than half of Americans can justify angry driving — at least some of the time

“People tend to think they are in the right, and this is especially true on the road,” Miller says. In fact, according to our survey, 56% think angry driving can be justified under certain circumstances. This far surpasses the 44% who believe it’s never justified. 

Men are more likely to think angry driving is justified at least some of the time (29% vs. 21% of women). However more than half of both men and women — 57% to 54%, respectively — believe it’s justified at least rarely. Young people are also far more likely (70%) to believe that angry drivers are ever justified, with just three in 10 of those age 18 to 34 years old believing that angry driving is never justified. 

Not only were parents of young children more likely than those without to admit to driving angrily, this group was also more likely to believe that angry drivers are justified at least some of the time. Of those with children younger than 18 years old, 64% (vs. 49% of those with children 18+ and 57% of those without children) felt angry driving could rarely, sometimes, or often be justified.

Aggressive driving can significantly increase what you pay for car insurance

The cost of car insurance will likely increase for most people in the near future.

Along with more roadway fatalities since the start of the pandemic, distracted drivers [4] and more expensive claims brought about by supply-chain disruptions to parts manufacturers have created the perfect environment for higher premiums. [5]

Given these conditions, angry drivers put themselves at even greater risk of paying much more for auto insurance.

To measure the financial impact of road rage, we looked at the average cost of car insurance for drivers who have been cited for speeding, reckless driving, improper passing, and following too closely

Then, we compared the cost of car insurance for drivers who have received a citation for at least one of these behaviors with the premiums of those who haven’t. We found that, on average, aggressive driving increases the cost of car insurance by 40%.

While this price increase is significant, it could be even worse depending on where you live. In Hawaii, the cost of auto coverage rises 96% for drivers who receive a citation for one of these road rage-related behaviors. 

Along with Hawaii, there are four additional states where road rage results in a premium increase that tops 50%: 

  • Hawaii (96%)

  • California (74%)

  • Michigan (69%)

  • North Carolina (65%)

  • New Jersey (54%)

Rates are for a 30-year-old driver and are a sample of costs for the average increase to the price of car insurance after a violation for speeding, reckless driving, improper passing, and following too closely. Your actual rates may differ.

Your insurance may not fully protect you from road rage 

It can be frightening to encounter an angry, unpredictable driver, but at least from a financial standpoint, car insurance should protect you — in theory, anyway. If someone else damages your car, their liability insurance (also known as third-party insurance) would pay for the damage to your car, along with medical bills for any injuries they may cause. 

But what if that angry driver doesn’t stop to exchange insurance information with you? If you’re able to write down their license plate, you could eventually take legal action against the other driver for damages. However, if you're unable to record their plate number and authorities fail to locate the offending driver, you could be forced to pay for the damages yourself.

To be completely protected, you may need to get additional insurance coverage, such as  collision insurance or uninsured motorist coverage. You can use collision insurance or UIM to pay for damages to your car that are caused by someone who drives off after a crash. Keep in mind that as you add more coverage to your policy, it will get more expensive — though the extra cost outweighs the potential expenses you would pay if you were uninsured. 

Methodology

Policygenius commissioned YouGov to poll 1,083 Americans age 18 or older. YouGov carried out this survey online from February 23 to February 24, 2022. The figures have been weighed and are representative of all U.S. adults (age 18+). This survey’s margin of error is +/- 1.35%.

In order to calculate the cost of car insurance for drivers who have been cited for road rage–related behaviors, Policygenius analyzed car insurance rates provided by Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. We compared the average insurance cost for drivers with a clean record and drivers with a violation for speeding, reckless driving, improper passing, or following too closely. We calculated the typical price increases in every state that follow each of these violations, and then averaged those to find the financial cost of road rage.

The rates that were provided by Quadrant reflect the cost of insurance for the following coverage limits:

  • Bodily injury liability: 50/100

  • Property damage liability: $50,000

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: 50/100

  • Comprehensive: $500 deductible

  • Collision: $500 deductible

In some cases, additional coverages were added where required by the state or insurer.

Rates for overall average rate, rates by ZIP code, and cheapest companies determined using averages for single drivers age 30. Our sample vehicle was a 2017 Toyota Camry LE driven 10,000 miles/year. Rates provided are a sample of costs. Your actual rates may differ.