U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Road Rage and the Epidemiology of Violence: Something Old, Something New

NCJ Number
Studies on Crime and Crime Prevention Volume: 7 Issue: 2 Dated: 1998 Pages: 221-238
R W Harding; F H Morgan; D Indermaur; A M Ferrante; H Blagg
Date Published
18 pages
"Road rage" is the popular term used to describe impulsive driving-related violence between strangers; the research described in this paper explores empirical data that relates to such incidents in Western Australia in the period 1991-95.
The data indicate that road-rage incidents are increasing both per resident and per registered vehicle; however, such incidents are reasonably stable as a proportion of stranger violence generally. There was a link between such incidents and data on traffic flow and volume, distance driven, and exposure effect (both victim and offender). This paper examines road rage in the context of the general literature on stranger violence and in the context of particular case studies taken from the database. The data show that groups at high risk of violent behavior against strangers (young males, Aboriginals) are at less risk of committing road-rage violence compared to street violence, because they are underrepresented (or less exposed) as drivers in terms of distance driven; and groups at low risk of violent offending against strangers (older males) are more at risk of committing road-rage violence than street violence, because they are overrepresented (or more exposed) as drivers in terms of distance driven. The dynamics of road-rage incidents comply with general violence analysis regarding status defense, identity enhancement, and disinhibition. There is thus an old and familiar rage element to road rage; however, there is also a new "road" element related to the frustration of over-long exposure to the driving experience. Exposure can contribute to an effect in which persons not otherwise at risk for violent behavior become susceptible. These exploratory findings are in principle applicable to road rage worldwide, and they are sufficiently robust to support further empirical research into road rage; they raise clear crime- prevention implications in the areas of road design, traffic-flow arrangements, driver training, etc. 9 tables and 26 references