Sydney Morning Herald - Wednesday 28 September, 2005

Drivers getting hot under collar: survey

Almost 50 per cent of Australian drivers have lashed out at other motorists and most believe their road rage is justified.

A survey has found Australian drivers blame traffic congestion and ballooning commuting times for an increase in driver aggression.

The eleventh annual AAMI Crash Index paints a bleak picture of driver courtesy, with almost half the motorists surveyed admitting to gesturing rudely or yelling at other drivers whom they believe are in the wrong.

The percentage of aggressive drivers has doubled from 22 per cent in 1996 to 44 per cent today, with about 82 per cent saying their angry response is acceptable.

Drivers who admit to being so frustrated they have tailgated another car while flashing their lights has almost tripled, from five per cent in 1996 to 14 per cent in 2005.

Sydney University Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies director Professor David Hensher said driver intolerance was a symptom of a busy and overstressed society unable to tolerate unplanned delays on the roads.

The survey found seven in 10 drivers said traffic congestion was a major cause of road rage.
Prof Hensher said drivers would have to learn to live with bumper-to-bumper traffic as the trend of driving further and longer was set to continue.

With four per cent of road-rage incidents turning physical, and cars being forced off the road in almost one in six cases, consulting psychologist John Cheetham said road rage was like a childish tantrum with more serious consequences.

"As a society, we are not taking responsibility for controlling our behaviour," he said.
"When a driver reacts with anger, physiological responses occur that affect thinking, judgment and sensory-motor skills. The combined effect of giving in to angry feelings is a diminished capacity to safely drive a motor vehicle."

The report found 40 per cent of drivers had taken to the road despite believing they had drunk too much alcohol and would be over the legal limit.

Motorists worried mobile phones and audio-visual equipment, such as DVD players and CD players, broke their concentration, but many admitted to these distracting practices.

More than half of all drivers had used a mobile phone without a hands-free kit, and 20 per cent still did so regularly, while 29 per cent had sent, or read, a text message while driving.

Half of the drivers surveyed had been distracted by billboards.
RMIT University senior marketing lecturer Con Stavros said this would only increase as advertisements became more elaborate.

"Outdoor advertising is designed to disrupt and distract," he said.  

"Ironically, many of the ads on our roads that are potentially distracting are from bodies urging us to drive safer." 

The index is based on a survey of 2,400 adults nationwide and analysis of AAMI's claims data. 

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