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Road Rage: Are Men Or Women The Major Culprits?

Author: Megan Ellis
Date: 2017-05-03
The phenomenon of road rage is becoming more and more prevalent on SA’s roads. We take a look at who is to blame.
Human behaviour is the leading cause of road deaths. And, the ever-feared road rage is coming under the spotlight for its increasing contribution to accidents. But, who are the major perpetrators behind road rage, and why are incidents continuing? We investigate by looking at reports and research...

How Is Road Rage Defined?

As the term “road rage” has become a phrase du jour, which encompasses everything from hooting and swearing behind the wheel, to aggressive driving and assaults on the road, traffic organisations have come up with a more specific classification for incidents. Arrive Alive defines road rage as specifically applying to incidents where an “angry or impatient motorist or passenger intentionally injures or kills another motorist, passenger, or pedestrian. Or, attempts or threatens to injure or kill another motorist, passenger, or pedestrian”. The defining factor of road rage for Arrive Alive is intention – with incidents being willful acts. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety applies a broader definition: “violent criminal act involving an intention to cause physical harm” on the road. The foundation has gone so far as to attribute over half of road accidents to road rage, and other aggressive driving. But, who is generally behind this kind of behaviour?

The Debate Over Men Versus Women

There is significant coverage over whether men or women are the most common perpetrators of road rage. While research generally points to men being the culprits, one study claims that women actually feel angrier behind the wheel. However, anger doesn’t necessarily translate into action. After all, a research paper, published in 2016, notes that expressing anger is more dangerous on the road than feeling anger. Let’s look at some of the data: According to a 2014 survey published by the AAA Foundation, male drivers between the ages of 19 and 39 were the most likely to resort to aggressive driving. Male drivers were also found to be over three times more likely than females to get out of a vehicle to confront another driver. The different behaviour of the sexes was most noticeable when it came to more extreme acts of aggression. The age range of 19 to 24 was also the group which was mostly likely to engage in more extreme aggression. However, the difference in behaviour doesn’t necessarily stem from being ‘in our genes’.
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Is There More To The Story?

Rather, how society teaches men and women to deal with frustration and anger differently may play a bigger role in road rage demographics. Therefore, instead of being based on sex, driver reactions could actually be linked to whether the individual accepts more stereotypically ‘masculine’ traits (like aggression and physical expression of anger), versus more stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits (like favouring resolution over confrontation). This is according to the results of a recent Ukrainian study into gender roles and the expression of anger while driving. While masculine traits didn’t increase driver aggression, rejection, or acceptance of, feminine traits correlated with anger expression.
“The presence of feminine traits, but not sex, predicted more adaptive / constructive behaviors and lower scores for verbal aggressive expression, personal physical aggressive expression, and total aggressive expression,” the study says.
The study concludes that gender roles, rather than sex, play a more significant role in aggressive driving. An Iranian study, in 2015, also looked at other factors, besides sex, to measure the likeliness of a driver to commit traffic offences. The study (which only looked at young, male drivers) found that mental health status, aggression, and poor driving were distinguishing factors between traffic offenders and non-offenders.

What Other Factors Are At Play?

While age and gender have historically been correlated with road rage and aggressive driving, there are a few other factors which contribute to the growing problem. Stress and time constraints contribute to incidents of road rage. With drivers in cities and populated areas being more likely to rage out. Arrive Alive says that stress levels in South Africa, along with general aggressive driving on the roads, compounds the situation. However, a huge factor in road rage incidents is intoxication. Arrive Alive says that drugs and alcohol are a factor in the vast majority of very serious road rage incidents. Regardless of the demographics and factors behind road rage though, traffic organisations and groups agree that it is time to tackle the problem head on.

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