Why Are There So Many Dangerous Drivers?

Angry man driving a vehicle without seat belt

A closer look at a serious problem on our roads.

We’ve all encountered dangerous drivers on the road. Drivers who are going way too fast or who are acting aggressively. Drivers who are checking their phones or who are impaired by drugs or alcohol. Too often, we’ve also seen the car accidents these drivers cause, leaving victims with serious injuries that are sometimes fatal.

It’s a national problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of accidents in the U.S. rose 16% from 2020 to 2021 to a total of more than 6 million. That’s roughly 16,500 crashes each day. And in 2021, 42,939 people were killed in car accidents – the highest number of fatalities on the road in a decade and a half.

An increase in aggressive behavior

“It’s not an exaggeration to say behavior on the road today is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Capt. Michael Brown, a state police district commander in Michigan. “It’s not just the volume. It’s the variety.” He cited impaired driving, speeding, road rage, and impatience as dangerous behaviors seen in many drivers.

A paper written by Amanda Stephens, a senior researcher at the Accident Research Center at Monash University in Australia, found most drivers surveyed had encountered more hostility on the road than before the pandemic. It found:

  • Nearly 80 percent of respondents reported an increase in “shouting, cursing or making rude gestures.”
  • Nearly 35 percent reported a rise in incidents in which a driver attempts to cause “actual damage” to another vehicle.

In a 2020 survey from the insurance-comparison website the Zebra, 82 percent of respondents said they had engaged in road rage or aggressive driving.

Why is dangerous driving on the rise?

A New York Times article tried to find some possible answers.

One theory is that Americans everywhere are feeling the stress of collective trauma, based on a survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association. The psychological impacts of the pandemic, global conflicts, racial injustice, inflation, and climate-related disasters are making it even more difficult to deal with the stressors of daily life.

“All those emotions, they have to go somewhere,” said Ryan Martin, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin. And those emotions tend to come out when we’re driving.

“If I was to set out to create a situation that would make the most people act badly and angrily, I couldn’t come up with anything better than driving,” he said.

The “unwritten rules of the road” also make things complicated, he noted. He cited an example of being tailgated while driving 45 mph in a zone where the speed limit was 40 mph.

“That’s their decision about how fast I should be going,” he said. “It’s not written down anywhere. But in their mind, they’re participating in all sorts of inflammatory labeling: I’m a fool, I’m an idiot, because I’m not adhering to their personal rules.”

A closer look at the behavior of drivers

A research project designed to study aggressive driving placed volunteers inside a driving simulator. Each participant was put through a series of increasingly frustrating situations to see how they would react to road-related stress.

The conclusion: “Frustrating events in the driving environment may instigate drivers to drive aggressively even if they may be nonaggressive by nature.” However, researchers also noted the role of “trait aggressiveness.” Basically, the more stress, anxiety, fear, and anger experienced by people in their daily lives, the more aggressive they will be behind the wheel.

Another problem is that certain dangerous driving behaviors are perceived as normal.

Heather Padilla, a professor and director of the Traffic Safety Research and Evaluation Group at the University of Georgia, started a pilot study of driving habits. She found the vast majority of respondents drove fast, and some were surprised to learn just how fast they were going.

“Relative to other risky behaviors, there was a more accepting attitude toward speeding and more reports of frequent engagement with it,” she said.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, an attorney can help

Reducing dangerous driving behavior is challenging. Possible solutions include increased law enforcement efforts, technology such as speed cameras, and improved road design.

One thing is clear – dangerous driving leads to more accidents and more serious injuries suffered by victims.

The car accident attorneys at Hoover Rogers Law, LLP fight for the injured in Wichita Falls, TX, and Lawton, OK. We understand that injuries can impact your life physically, emotionally, and financially. Our firm knows how to hold dangerous drivers accountable and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve.

It’s not just a case. It’s your life. If you were injured in a car accident caused by a dangerous driver, learn more about how we can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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