Millions of drivers say they frequently vent their frustrations on other road users, with bad behaviour ranging from swearing to deliberately tailgating other motorists.
Millions of drivers admit to undergoing a personality change when they get behind the wheel of their cars.
Research carried out by insurer Churchill into the behaviour and psychology of British motorists has found that most drivers admit to acting aggressively while on the road.
Is this acceptable?
At the same time, a majority also say that their behaviour becomes different in some way when they take charge of a vehicle.
Many motorists add that they are much more likely to react angrily when driving than when dealing with others in person.
For example, 31% say they have sworn at other road users compared with just 12% who admit to having done so face-to-face.
The Churchill study also found that many drivers believe this kind of “Jekyll and Hyde” behaviour is acceptable provided it is confined to a car.
More than a quarter of those questioned held this view.
Psychologist Donna Dawson, who analysed the research on Churchill’s behalf, 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.’”
The study found that a third of drivers admitted to having sounded their horns in anger or irritation.
Tailgating and chasing
But a loss of temper at the wheel was blamed for far more dangerous actions in many cases.
One in nine motorists said they had deliberately tailgated other road users while 4% said they had chased someone’s car in anger on at least one occasion.
Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill, commented: “If you’re confronted with aggressive behaviour on the roads, then try to continue driving calmly and don’t get drawn into an instance of road rage.
“Remember that these frustrations often blow over as quickly as they arose, so it’s best not to give them any oxygen to escalate”.
‘Everyone does it’
Churchill found that half of drivers said their bad behaviour was simply intended to “vent their frustrations”.
Meanwhile, a quarter thought shouting or swearing was acceptable because the targets would be unlikely to hear them.
A third, however, admitted that their loss of temper was a bad habit that they should try to change.
One in 10 drivers said their behaviour was excused by the fact that “everyone else drives aggressively”.
Dawson said that motorists should prepare themselves for the issues that often arise on the roads.
“Drivers are human beings, not machines, and so they are prone to inconsistency, distraction and making mistakes,” she said.
“With this in mind, motorists should learn to drive ‘defensively’ and avoid driving in a stressed and nervous state.
“Being calm, alert and aware is essential - an angry, aggressive driver is a danger to themselves and others because they are out of control, so it’s better to give them a wide berth and to shrug it off.”
‘Consideration is contagious’
She added that having a more tolerant approach could have its own rewards.
“The only way to make driving safe and more tolerable on our congested roads is to show each other patience and consideration.
“Consideration is contagious, and once it’s shown to you, you are more likely to show it to someone else.”
A recent survey carried out by Accident Advice Helpline found that tailgating was the number one cause of anger among UK motorists, followed by being cut up and excessive speeding.