Aggressive Driving

Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is a major factor in U.S. traffic accidents, playing a role not just in well-publicized incidents of road rage, but in a large number of fatal highway collisions each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) defines aggressive driving as occurring when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." While aggressive driving is difficult to quantify, a 2009 study by the American Automobile Association attempted to identify behaviors associated with aggressive driving, based on data tracked by NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Report System (FARS). It found that aggressive driving played a role in 56 percent of fatal crashes from 2003 through 2007, with excessive speed being the number one factor.  The following driver-related contributing factors in FARS were taken as indications that crashes may have involved aggressive driving:

  • Following improperly
  • Improper or erratic lane changing
  • Illegal driving on road shoulder, in ditch, or on sidewalk or median
  • Passing where prohibited
  • Operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner or suddenly changing speeds
  • Failure to yield right of way
  • Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers, failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
  • Failure to observe warnings or instructions on vehicle displaying them
  • Failure to signal
  • Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit
  • Racing
  • Making an improper turn

Speeding was the leading driving behavior associated with fatal crashes in 2014. Speeding was a factor for 18.8 percent of drivers and motorcyclists who were involved in fatal crashes, followed by driving under the influence (12.3 percent), according to an analysis by NHTSA. Distracted driving was a factor for 6.7 percent of drivers and motorcyclists who were involved in fatal crashes. (Note: NHTSA provide guides, planners and information to law enforcement professionals and prosecutors to assist in the reduction of aggressive driving on its website).


Driving Behaviors Reported For Drivers And Motorcycle Operators Involved In Fatal Crashes, 2014

Behavior Number of drivers Percent
Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit 8,360 18.8%
Under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication 5,492 12.3
Failure to keep in proper lane or running off road 3,770 8.5
Failure to yield right of way 3,094 6.9
Distracted (phone, talking, eating, object, etc.) 3,000 6.7
Operating vehicle in a careless manner 2,122 4.8
Overcorrecting/oversteering 1,814 4.1
Failure to obey traffic signs, signals or officer 1,796 4.0
Operating vehicle in erratic, reckless or negligent manner 1,548 3.5
Swerving or avoiding due to wind, slippery surface, other
vehicle, object, nonmotorist in roadway, etc.
1,510 3.4
Drowsy, asleep, fatigued, ill or blacked out 1,309 2.9
Vision obscured (rain, snow, glare, lights, buildings, trees, etc.) 1,241 2.8
Driving wrong way on one-way trafficway or on wrong side of road 879 2.0
Making improper turn 765 1.7
Other factors 5,212 11.7
None reported 13,885 31.1
Unknown 5,740 12.9
Total drivers (1) 44,583 100.0%

(1) The sum of percentages is greater than total drivers as more than one factor may be present for the same driver.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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