Aggressive drivers drive faster and make more mistakes, study finds

From delays and traffic jams to bad-mannered behavior, sources of frustration when driving can be numerous and can lead to stress and anger in some people. A new study conducted by researchers in the UK reveals that aggressive driving is a high-risk behavior, impacting both road users and the transition to the self-driving cars of the future.
Aggressive drivers drive faster and make more mistakes, study finds
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Have you ever felt the red mist rise when driving? Let’s face it, sometimes it doesn’t take much to feel stress and frustration on the road, whether it’s a driver who’s too slow, a dangerous pullout, or someone who’s slow off the mark at a green light. While anger certainly doesn’t make things better, a new study by researchers at the University of Warwick shows that it can actually make things worse, and adversely affect a driver’s performance on the road. The scientists looked at the performance of more than 1,700 drivers who were confronted with a situation of frustration, with the aim of determining whether this could have an impact on their driving.

A greater risk of accident

Published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, their research, which is based on a meta-analysis, reveals that so-called aggressive driving does induce a change in behavior that leads to multiple errors on the road. In fact, the researchers report that aggressive drivers drive faster (5 km/h on average), and respect the rules of the road much less (not using the turn signal when changing lanes, for example) than the control group. Angry or stressed drivers even made 2.51 times more driving errors.

In light of these findings, and as the deployment of autonomous cars approaches, the scientists believe that these results could pave the way for the development of systems to monitor aggressive driving in vehicles. “This research is significant because, as the era of autonomous vehicles approaches, road traffic will be a mix of both autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles, driven by people that may engage in aggressive driving. This is the first study to characterize aggressive driving behavior quantitatively in a systematic way, which may help the autonomous vehicles identify potential aggressive driving in the surrounding environment,” says study lead author, Zhizhuo Su, a PhD student, at the Institutes of Digital Healthcare and Intelligent Vehicles, WMG at the University of Warwick, quoted in a news release.

Playing relaxing music

More concretely, this kind of system could allow vehicles to detect aggressive driving, and therefore an increased risk of driver errors, and to react accordingly. Roger Woodman, assistant professor at WMG and co-author of the study, adds: “Over the last few decades, road safety policies, infrastructure changes, and improved vehicle safety have significantly reduced road casualties. However, human error, which is often a result of aggressive driving, remains a leading cause of crashes. To make driving safer, our research focuses on methods for understanding the state of the driver, to identify risky driving behaviors, through the use of driver monitoring systems (DMS).”

The researcher suggests that this could be achieved by deploying calming techniques, such as reducing the noise level inside the car or playing relaxing music, or even by reducing the speed of the vehicle. These are all solutions that could be implemented to reduce the risk of accidents linked to aggressive driving.