Road Rage:  Why Can Atlanta Drivers Be So Rude?

Marsha B. Sauls, Ph.D.

770-668-0350 x221


Driving in Atlanta can be trying for even the most patient person. According to a recent article in the spring 2004 Journal of Counseling and Development, traffic congestion and travel impedance can negatively affect mood, behavior and the health of commuters.  Sounds like Atlanta traffic would qualify for this effect. There is, however, mixed evidence that stress and irritation will always lead to aggressive driving.

Personality factors determine the reaction one may have to stressful driving conditions.  People who are stressed in general have a tendency to perceive other drivers rather than themselves as the source of frustration thereby allowing them to be more aggressive in their responses to those drivers. Aggressive individuals perceive the actions of other drivers as hostile and are less likely to view the actions of other drivers as justifiable or at least accidental. These are the people who shake their finger at you when you are too slow or make a reasonable mistake. The anonymity of being in a closed car allows drivers to be more aggressive as does being exposed to aggressive signs or stimuli. Age and gender also are significant variables with respect to aggressive driving. According to the research, younger drivers are more risky, drive faster, accept narrower gaps when pulling into traffic, leave shorter distances between cars, and are more likely to violate traffic lights.  In addition, younger drivers violate safe driving norms, have slower perceptions of risk, make more dangerous errors and violations, and display more irritation and annoyance in traffic jams. Emotional immaturity and inexperience are attributed to these results.  Although, according to research, men commit more dangerous traffic violations and are riskier drivers, of drivers that admit to aggressive driving behavior 53% were women.

What can you do if you fall into these categories or know someone who does?  Leaving more time for the drive, relaxing before driving, confronting aggressive producing beliefs such as, “I’ll teach them a lesson”, “That shouldn’t be allowed”, “Try and make me give in”, and “I must make good time” will decrease one’s propensity toward aggressive driving behavior and attitudes.