What causes road user aggression?


Animosity, impatience and/or being in a hurry, are often motives for road user aggression [5]. Aggressive road user behaviour is mostly caused by annoyance with others and irritation about situations [6] [7] [8]. According to the Dutch National Driver Survey, the top ten grievances in 2019 were as follows [9]:

  1. Tailgating
  2. Aggressive driving
  3. Drug- and/or drink-driving
  4. Failure to indicate direction
  5. Driving on the left without need
  6. Speeding in an urban area
  7. Last-minute lane merging
  8. Overtaking on the right
  9. Sunday drivers
  10. Speed humps

The behaviour of (Light) moped riders and cyclists may also give rise to irritation. A survey in Amsterdam proved that half the respondents were annoyed by the behaviour of (light) moped riders [10]. A quarter of them were annoyed by cyclists. Respondents that do not or hardly cycle themselves were particularly annoyed by cyclists’ red light negation (45%), cycling on the pavement (35%), cycling without lights (25%), not indicating direction (24%) and not paying attention while cycling (23%) [10]. Cyclists themselves are mainly annoyed by scooters and (light) mopeds (56%), by other cyclists’ lack of attention (31%), red light negation (24%) and wrong-way cycling (23%).

Road user aggression often goes hand in hand with ‘anger’ [7] [11] [12] [13]. A road user’s anger may stem from personal characteristics or from the traffic situation. People differ in the extent to which they tend to react emotionally; this is true in traffic as well. People who generally tend to react angrily or aggressively, not only report anger but also worse anger when participating in traffic [11] [12]. Emotions may have arisen before or may arise during traffic participation [7].

In addition, anger is often a reaction to frustration attributed to someone else [6]. Frustration during traffic participation may arise when self-interest is hampered, for example by congestion, long waits at red lights or by offences or unexpected behaviour of other road users [6] [7]. Anonymity and lack of direct communication possibilities further contribute to the risk of driver aggression [14] [15].

Among cyclists, anger during traffic participation also occurs, but online questionnaire replies suggest that cyclists usually deal with their anger constructively; they accept their anger and do not let their frustration mount [16]. Aggressive reactions (verbal, physical) are more common among young cyclists, among men, and among frequent cyclists [16].

Part of fact sheet

Risky road user behaviour, aggression and repeat offenders

Risky road user behaviour is behaviour that adversely affects road safety, such as driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or… Meer

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