Are you aware of how many people die from car accidents worldwide each year? According to the WHO (World Health Organization) 1.35 million people die of car accidents every year. That’s about 1 death every 24 seconds. This is more than the number of deaths from HIV or tuberculosis. Car accidents rank 8th place in the world for overall causes of death, and as for people aged 5 – 29 years old, it’s the number one cause. Moreover, “road rage” (the act of aggressive driving) is a significant influence on a large portion of these accidents. The numbers for accidents are unfortunately high, and it seems that emotions like anger and frustration are big contributing factors to this. Therefore, anger management and emotional control play an important role in preventing accidents on the road.

An old beetle car that has gone through a car accident
Image: Unsplash

Causes for Car Accidents by Location

According to the WHO, while the car ownership population has increased, the ratio to car accident death has not changed.

Low-income countries almost never decline in car accident deaths and have 3 times a higher probability for death. These countries and poor regions don’t have the infrastructure to create sidewalks and bike lanes or don’t have laws that hold speeding and drunk drivers accountable. Some regions have very lax rules for driving and this also accounts for reasons of car accidents.

However, developed countries that don’t have these problems still face car accident issues. The most common reasons are; falling asleep behind the wheel, drunk drivers, and elderlys who mishandle control.

Among the many reasons, it is known that our emotions contribute to these errors as well. Dangerous driving and road rage happens when a driver’s emotions take over. Strong emotions create certain beliefs to over capacitate a driver’s abilities, which then results in car accidents.

An upset driver
Image: Unsplash

Road Rage Statistics

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) defines aggressive driving as “the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” Road rage can result in traffic violations, and can sometimes even escalate to a criminal offense.

Reference: DrDriving

According to an AAA survey in the US, “Regardless of gender, nearly 8 in 10 (79%) American drivers demonstrate aggressive behaviors when behind the wheel.” Dr. Leon James, who has done extensive research on driving psychology, also demonstrates evidence that road rage has become a cultural norm in the United States.

American Survey 2020 on aggressive drivers

Although the degree of aggressive behavior varies, surveys indicate that many people around the world have encountered aggressive behavior while on the road.

Australian Survey 2020 about aggressive drivers
Australian Survey 2020 according to BudgetDirect

How Does Anger Influence Driving?

According to the NRSPP (National Road Safety Partner Program), “anger makes us feel more confident, leading us to overestimate our control and make stereotypical judgments.” In other words, aggressive driving is a manifestation of our emotional state.

There are 4 big reasons anger is triggered on the road:

  • Traffic Obstruction: Long traffic lights and traffic jam
  • Traffic Violation: Witnessing other cars that don’t obey traffic laws
  • Traffic Manners: Rude and inconsiderate gestures such as honking and cutting in
  • Traffic Danger: Almost hitting another car or sudden animals/humans jumping in front
Research shows that our emotional states reflect the outcome of what happens on the road. When we are angry:

  • The likelihood of crash involvement is 35 times higher
  • Accident risk increases nearly 10 times

Therefore, it is important we learn how to manage anger and know how to control our emotional states when we take the wheel.

Anger Management and Risk Control

An angry driver
Image: Unsplash

How to Better Manage Anger on the Road

Anger is said to reach its precipice after 6 seconds. According to how the brain functions, there’s also about a 6-second gap between us feeling angry to gaining back rational control. Therefore, the first 6 seconds are crucial when we try to handle our emotions while out on the road.

Anger management helps us better deal with our anger, and is a great way to train our emotional response to avoid road rage. As an example, here are things to try for the first 6 seconds when you feel angry or stressed out while driving:

  • Take deep breaths
  • Simple mathematics (Example: Start from 100 and keep subtracting 3)
  • Rate your anger (Objective quantifying gives us the space to gain rationale)

According to a survey here are a few methods that people typically choose to relax after a road rage incident:

  • Listen to music or a podcast: 30.5%
  • Think of something more peaceful: 19.2%
  • Letting off steam by yelling in the car: 9.5%
Morning light shining through a car window.
Image: Unsplash

Don’t Let Road Rage Take Over

Any driver should assess risk factors and learn how to control their anger before it turns into road rage. In England, drivers are required to take a Hazard Perception Test (measures the driver’s ability to recognise potentially dangerous situations on the road with appropriate response) when getting their license. Overconfidence often causes risk-taking behavior too. Therefore, in Sweden, drivers are required to go through Risk Sensitivity Training where discussion and feedbacks are given on the weak points of each individual driver.

It’s very important that we keep our stress levels low so that we don’t exhibit aggressive behaviors that could lead to accidents. Anger management is crucial to staying safe for the sake of ourselves and others on the road.

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Budget Direct & National Road Safety Partnership Program. (2020, September). Road Rage Study & Statistics | Car Research & Statistics — Budget Direct™. Budget Direct.

Carslake, J., Fetalvero, G., Cooke, K., Xavier, C., Stephens, A., Khouzami, Y., & Roberts, T. (2020). NRSPP Australia » NRSPP Fact Sheet: Aggressive Driving – What Is Aggressive Driving? National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP).

Covington, T., & LinkedIn, T. C. (2021, April 20). Road Rage Statistics in 2021. The Zebra.

Gross, A. (2020, December 10). Survey Says: Men Are More Aggressive Behind the Wheel. AAA Newsroom.

James, L. (2000, August). The Effect of Age, Gender, and Type of Car Driven Across the States. DrDriving.Org.

Ogawa, K. (1993). Risk Perception and Hazard Perception. The Faculty of Human Sciences, Osaka University19, 27–40.

Precht, L., Keinath, A., & Krems, J. F. (2017). Effects of driving anger on driver behavior – Results from naturalistic driving data. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour45, 75–92.

Renge, K. (2000). Psychological processes of risk-taking behavior in driving and new approach toward promoting risk-avoiding behavior. IATSS Review26(1), 12–22.

Richardson, R. (2018, January 28). Who Is In More Accidents? Men or Women? | OSV | Learning Centre. OSV.

Shimofure, T., & Kiyama, K. (2016). A study on introduction significance of anger management to health and physical education. Annual Reports of the Faculty of Education, Gunma University. Art, Technology, Health and Physical Education, and Science of Human Living Series52, 57–70.

Stuster, J. (2004, March). Aggressive Driving Enforcement: Evaluation of Two Demonstration Programs. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

About the Author


As a writer, worked on many medical-related articles based on academic papers. Specializes in articles on mental health and stress care.

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