More than half (57%) of adults in the UK are thought to act more aggressively than normal when in the driver’s seat, demonstrating behaviour reminiscent of “Jekyll and Hyde”.
According to research done by Churchill Car Insurance on more than 2,000 UK adults, people tend to be more aggressive while driving. A total of 31% of respondents have sworn at strangers while they were driving, compared to only 12% when face-to-face. Also, 26% of motorists have shouted at others when behind the wheel, but only 12% have done so in person. Aggressive driving also includes beeping horns (33%), deliberate tailgating (11%), and chasing another car in anger (4%).
Men are more likely to act aggressively (67%) compared to women (47%). Younger people are also more likely to be rash, with 62% of those aged 18-34 having acted aggressively, while 49% of those aged 55 and up did so.
The most common excuse given for aggressive behaviour in the car is to vent frustrations (50%), followed by “it’s a bad habit” (30%), and “It isn’t a conscious decision, I just get angry in the car” (29%).
One of the possible reasons for this increase in aggressive behaviour is the belief that it’s acceptable while driving, with 27% of respondents agreeing. There is a psychological basis for this, as drivers feel disassociated from their environment when in an enclosed spaces such as a car. This allows them to express anger and frustration towards other drivers, and even life in general, with low risk of conflict.
Psychologist Donna Dawson offered some advice, saying, “The secret is not overreacting; if we became angry at every perceived injustice that occurred to us on the road, we would damage our mental and physical health and probably end up in an accident. The only way to make driving safe and more tolerable on our congested roads is to show each other patience and consideration. Consideration is contagious, and once it’s shown to you, you are more likely to show it to someone else.”
Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill, also echoed the sentiment, “If you’re confronted with aggressive behaviour on the roads, then try to continue driving calmly and don’t get drawn into an instance of road rage. Remember that these frustrations often blow over as quickly as they arose, so it’s best not to give them any oxygen to escalate”.