You may be an aggressive driver and not know it

August 23, 1999

You may be an aggressive driver and not know it. Researchers have found that those angry drivers who indicate they don't have a problem with driving anger can be just as angry and dangerous on the road as those who know they are aggressive drivers, according to a study conducted by psychologist Rebekah S. Lynch, Ph.D., of Colorado State University and other researchers. Their findings will be presented at the 107th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston.

The study involved male and female college students who reported more anger in response to fourteen common driving situations than three-quarters of their fellow students. These driving situations could include hostile gestures (e.g., others make an obscene gesture), police presence (e.g., officer pulls you over), illegal driving (e.g., others going over the speed limit), traffic obstructions (e.g., stuck in a traffic jam), discourtesy (e.g., someone cuts you off), and slow driving (e.g., slow driver does not pull over to let others by). The students were classified by one of three groups; high trait driving anger students who indicated a personal problem with their driving anger and a desire for counseling for that problem (HAP); high trait driving anger students that described themselves as not having a problem with driving anger (HANP); and low trait anger students that indicated no personal problem with driving anger (LANP).

The researchers found that although there was some evidence of greater anger and aggressiveness for HAP drivers compared to HANP drivers, overall, students in both groups were more alike than different. Both high anger groups were at greater risk for more anger, aggression, risky behavior and some types of accidents. The study authors say even though both groups were at greater risk, different interventions will be needed to reduce road rage. "Because they acknowledge problems and are interested in counseling, HAP drivers appear ready for psychotherapeutic and psycho-educational interventions. HANP drivers, on the other hand, because they do not perceive or at least acknowledge problems will require new interventions which focus on increasing their awareness of their problems and their readiness and motivation to address them."
Presentation: "Anger, Aggression, and Risk Associated with Driving Anger" by Rebekah S. Lynch, Ph.D., Jerry L. Deffenbacher, Ph.D., Linda B. Filetti, and Eric R. Dahlen, Colorado State University, Session 4033, 8:00 AM - 9:50 AM, August 23, 1999, Hynes Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A, Poster B-8.

(Full text available from the APA Public Affairs Office)

Rebekah S. Lynch, Ph.D., can be reached at (970) 204-8223. Jerry L. Deffenbacher, Ph.D., can be reached at (970) 491-6871 or by email at

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 159,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 50 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 58 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.

American Psychological Association

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