If you’ve ever found yourself stuck in heavy city traffic or on a congested highway, then you may be all too familiar with how aggressive some drivers can be. But a new study shows that being aggressive behind the wheel comes at a cost.
Lead author David Herrero, a lecturer at the University of the Basque Country, says that risky and aggressive driving behaviors result in more accidents. In fact, even aggressive thoughts while driving can have their drawbacks.
“We saw that accident-related events were related with aggressive behaviour, but above all with risky behaviour, although both factors could significantly predict traffic accidents,” Herrero said. “It could be said that aggressive thoughts entail aggressive behaviour and that this aggressive behaviour entails risky behaviour, which is associated with accident-related events.”
Anger, aggression, and risky driving
Herrero’s eight-year-long study examined 414 participants who possessed a valid driving license and drove at least once per week. Each person was interviewed via two questionnaires that measured aggressive thoughts, risky behaviors, and accident-proneness.
Findings showed that age was a big divider when it came to aggressive driving and accident rates. Herrero said that the youngest drivers tended to experience more anger and express themselves aggressively on the road. However, findings showed little difference between male and female drivers.
“The differences between the sexes are not that clear with respect to the expression and experience of anger, not even with respect to aggressive thoughts,” said Herrero. “We men and women have the same frequency of aggressive thoughts.”
Increasing road safety
The study findings could prove useful for increasing road safety, but Herrero also believes that they could be beneficial for increasing our understanding of human psychology.
“It is important for us to know the cognitive, emotional and other mechanisms underlying this kind of behaviour to be able to intervene in the clearest, most precise way,” he said. “If we can make a person capable of spotting when he/she is behaving in a risky or even aggressive way, we will be reducing accident-related events.”