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AAA: Aggressive Driving a Factor in Up to 56 Percent of Deadly Vehicle Crashes

Source: AAA

Posted on 24 Apr 2009

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According to a new analysis released April 21 by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, as many as 56 percent of deadly vehicle crashes involve one or more unsafe driving behaviors typically associated with aggressive driving. The analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows speeding is the most common contributing factor and is involved in nearly one in three deadly crashes.

Aggressive driving is one of America's main traffic safety worries. Last year's AAA Foundation Traffic Safety Culture Index, a nationally representative telephone survey, found nearly eight out of every 10 people surveyed rated aggressive drivers as a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem.

However, in the same survey, many individuals reported driving in ways that could be deemed aggressive. For example, nearly half of drivers reported exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on major highways in the past 30 days, and 15 percent even admitted exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph on neighborhood streets. This reflects the "Do as I Say Not as I Do" attitude society has toward traffic safety.

"It's easy to think that other guy is the problem - the one who runs someone off the road, tailgates, or yells obscenities," said Peter Kissinger, AAA Foundation president and CEO. "In reality, examples of driving aggressively - any of which can lead to crashes, injuries, and deaths - are all too common."

Such examples of aggressive driving include running stop signs or red lights, preventing other drivers from passing, speeding, illegal driving on the shoulder, and failing to yield. The goal in releasing these findings is to educate motorists about the scope of aggressive driving as well as encourage motorists to reevaluate their own driving behavior and, ultimately, to improve this country's traffic safety culture.

"If you find yourself driving slowly in the passing lane, tailgating, or doing other things to teach the other driver a lesson, you are also part of the problem," said Kissinger. "An aggressive driving act by one driver can trigger a disproportionate and potentially violent reaction from another driver."

To examine the prevalence of aggressive driving in fatal crashes, the NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System database was analyzed. The extent of aggressive driving in crashes was determined using the driver-related contributing factors coded in FARS. These are factors listed on police crash report forms as having contributed to the crash and include a number of different factors related to the driver's behavior and performance, condition, and circumstances. Only factors related to behavior and performance typically associated with aggressive driving were included. Driver-related contributing factors in FARS were taken as indications that crashes may have involved aggressive driving because it was impossible to ascertain driver intention from the FARS data. The frequency with which each of these factors was coded in fatal crashes was analyzed using FARS data from 2003 through 2007, a time period during which there were 192,069 fatal crashes.