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Death by disrespectful driving

August 23, 2010

A new report from leading UK insurer, AXA, calculates that 800 lives are lost on Britain’s roads through accidents caused by road rage or disrespectful driving, and nearly £1 billion (£945m) of premium could be saved if British motorists were to rid themselves of the aggression and general disrespect of their fellow drivers that is commonplace on our roads.

AXA has launched findings of a report this week that illustrate the extent to which road rage or ‘disrespect’ on the UK’s roads costs drivers in terms of numbers of deaths a year.   The nationwide independent survey1 reveals that almost four in ten drivers2 involved in the 222,1003 accidents on British roads ever year say they were frightened or angered by other drivers in the critical moments before a crash.

Of those, more than 20% said the inconsiderate driving had come in the form of speeding, almost a quarter said that others were driving erratically, and more than one in five said another driver had been ignoring road rules and signs.

The calculations are based on research4 that shows 35% of drivers involved in more serious and costly accidents (those with a ‘personal injury’ element where someone is either killed or injured) were either made angry or frightened by another driver’s behaviour moments before the accident.  Put simply, if these drivers were to drive better and more considerately then the number of deaths and premiums would come down.

According to motoring psychologist, Peter Marsh, disrespectful, aggressive driving can be the cause of an accident in itself but also the negative emotions created by this type of driving can cause other drivers to become irrational and make mistakes they would otherwise not make.  

He said  “The AXA study highlights clearly the powerful psychological forces at work when we get behind the wheel of a car.  Our cars may be safer than before and our roads increasingly designed to reduce accidents but unless we recognise and deal with the strong emotional aspects of motoring, the factors that give rise to uncharacteristic belligerence and sheer bloody-mindedness, we may never be able to reduce much further the number of people who die unnecessarily on Britain’s highways.”

Research5 carried out earlier in the year by AXA found that 79% of drivers believe that British drivers are generally disrespectful to fellow road users, with 52% having been subjected to a ‘significant’ act of road rage – shouting and aggression rather than just a quick honk of the horn or a hand gesture.

And 53% of drivers admit to sometimes behaving aggressively behind the wheel while nearly 20% will often behave in this way. 

The behaviours categorised by motorists as ‘disrespectful’ range from speeding, driving erratically and ignoring road signs to beeping a horn in anger, making offensive hand gestures, yelling, swearing and flashing headlights. 

Over the last year, motorists have seen premiums rise rapidly – 13.4% in 2009.  AXA calculates that around £35 per premium pays for accidents caused by disrespectul driving, and and as well as these costs, the British motorist is also paying  an estimated £30 per premium for uninsured drivers. 

Craig Staniland, AXA Insurance director for motor says:  ”Disrespectful driving seems to be reaching pandemic proportions as drivers fail to see the potential consequences of thoughtless driving. Our research shows that something so simple to rectify – ie driving more courteously – is costing lives. A return to good manners and consideration could prevent nasty accidents and needless anguish.

 ”We are also very concerned that a continued lack of respect on the road will drive up premiums further.  Personal injury costs are escalating as it is – if we can cut back the number of accidents through a less aggressive and more considerate approach to the way we drive then it will be to the benefit of all drivers”.

Additional research findings revealed that:

  • 6% of those questioned admitted that they themselves had been disrespectful to another person in the moments before an accident with one in five of these admitting that they had been abusive6 to other drivers before the accident;
  • Other drivers’ behaving erratically was the thing that motorists most commonly cited as disrespectful behaviour on the roads followed by ignoring road signs/rules and speeding. Abusive behaviour (footnote 4) was also listed;
  • Around 20% of drivers were frightened or intimidated by the driver of the other vehicle after the accident had occurred rather than just before;
  • It took those involved in road accidents on average more than 18 hours to get over how the immediate emotions of the accident made them feel;
  • Around 13% said an experience of disrespectful driving had made them less likely to drive in the future.


1 OnePoll research carried our among 2,000 adults in June 2010

2 2,222 casualties reported on our roads in 2009 of which AXA calculates 35% could have been influenced by road rage/disrespectful driving Source:The Department for Transport Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2009: Annual Report (*&title=Reported+Road+Casualties+in+Great+Britain%3A+Main+Results&pagetype=calendar-entry)

3 Source:The Department for Transport Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2009: Annual Report (as above)

4Onepoll research carried out among 2000 adults in June 2010

5Research carried out by OnePoll among 2000 UK adult drivers in January 2010

6 Beeping horn angrily, using hand gestures, flashing lights, swearing or yelling at other driver

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