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58% of motorists admit to acting aggressively while driving

The research from Churchill Car Insurance also finds that 58% of motorists admit to acting aggressively while driving. A total of 31% of drivers have sworn at strangers in the car while only 12% have done so in person. And 26% of motorists have shouted at others while driving, while less than half (12% again) of that amount have done so in person.

Psychologist Donna Dawson attributed such ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ style driving to the mistaken belief that this behaviour is acceptable when in the car. Drivers feel disassociated from their environment, their car a safe place allowing them to express anger and frustration at another driver and even at life in general without the risk of direct conflict. There is no one to criticise or in close contact, so people feel detached from situations and more able to express their feelings.

When questioned, 27% felt such behaviour was acceptable and psychologist insights support this.

Dawson said: “One of the reasons drivers exert such different behaviours when on the road is the belief that their behaviour is justified by the circumstances – we tell ourselves ‘the other driver caused me to react this way due to their bad driving. In other words, I am a perfectly reasonable person, reacting normally to another person’s bad behaviour.’”

Research released earlier this year found that driving whilst angry, sad, crying, or emotionally agitated increases the risk of having a crash nearly tenfold.

The Churchill survey found that the most popular excuse for driving aggressively is to vent frustrations (50%). Other excuses include “it’s a bad habit” (30%) and, “it isn’t a conscious decision, I just get angry in the car.” In a society where openly expressing anger and aggression is disapproved of and discouraged, inside a car appears to be one of the few places people feel they can vent their emotions.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.