Earth, Wind & Fire’s iconic “September” may be one of the happiest songs ever recorded, but when it comes to getting through the actual month, most Americans feel about as joyful as they did when Taylor Swift covered the tune.
The official start of fall marks one of the angriest months on the road. According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), September sees more fatal accidents and road rage incidents recorded than nearly any other time of year.
September makes up 9% of the country’s total annual fatal accidents—of which 11% of those incidents involve aggressive driving. Only July harbors more bad blood, barely beating out September with an 11.3% road rage rate of accidents.
While it’s unclear what, exactly, about this particular month makes drivers so heated (the end of summer? The start of the school year? More school buses to get stuck behind?), there’s no question about what on the road is driving their rage.
The evening rush hour is the deadliest time to drive, with the 4 – 6 p.m. bracket specifically recording the most fatal accidents. Aside from the post-work frustration at play, another set of statistics show that these hours host more texting and driving.
And while the time slot also sees about a 6% rate of accidents caused by aggressive driving, it takes a few more hours for the rage to truly set in. Incidents peak at 10 p.m., with an aggressive driving rate of 7.1%. The late-night anger may be related to weariness, with fatigue long linked to irritability and a lack of self-control.
But timing isn’t the only factor impacting the likelihood of anger behind the wheel.
All the Rage
Millennials may be the most maligned generation in modern times, catching any number of unflattering nicknames from their more-seasoned peers. But any Gen X-er hurling labels at their younger cohorts in the throes of traffic should be prepared for a fight.
The age group is by far responsible for the most aggressive driving incidents on the road, with Millennial drivers accounting for 54.2% of fatal road rage-based incidents. The generation is also the deadliest behind the wheel overall, causing 35.6% of non-aggressive fatal crashes.
Generation X makes up their fair share, responsible for 21.4% of lethal road rage accidents, while Generation Z—those born after Millennials—account for 14.6%.
Apparently able to channel their collective past as peace-loving hippies, the Baby Boomers only caused 8.2% of fatal road rage crashes, while the Silent Generation barely made a peep on the road, responsible for just 1.7% of the incidents.
Anger levels behind the wheel also fluctuate geographically, with Indiana leading the nation in reported incidents of road rage deaths. Bucking the stereotype of Midwestern manners, the state recorded 77 aggressive driving-related fatalitiesin 2016—24 more than the next highest state, Colorado.
And despite its oceans of traffic, California counted just one road rage fatality that year—though those statistics may be skewed, as “aggressive driving” is defined—and reported—differently on a state-by-state basis.
Still, no matter where the accidents were happening, they were far more likely to happen on residential streets than on highways, with 17.3% of the incidents taking place on local roads.
All told, the vehicular anger led to one death every day in 2016. And while the statistic may be sad, there are happily many solutions for the problem.
Cool It Down
Road rage is tragic—but it’s not inevitable.
Beating the system is very possible, but cultivating the time and the patience to do so is key.
Having patience with others is especially important. Assuming a defensive position on the road—and assuming that other drivers are bound to make careless and reckless moves—will help give you the right mindset for accepting those mistakes when they naturally happen, and help give you enough space on the road to avoid the consequences of any sudden moves.
It’s also essential to practice patience with yourself: understand that traffic happens, and you’ll get to your destination whenever you do.
Time management can be an especially good tool to promote inner peace. Leaving early enough for traffic to absorb some extra time on the trip will greatly help alleviate any congestion-induced stress—and the bad decisions it may lead to.
And while you’re in the car, make the environment as serene as possible. Put some good music on the radio, or an audio book, or your favorite podcast. Breathe deeply. Keep your gaze on the road, and avoid making unnecessary eye contact with other drivers.
Avoid unleashing the never-pleasant sound of the horn, too, if possible. And if you see someone else trying to antagonize a fight, do your best to turn the other cheek.
Nobody likes being stuck in traffic or being the focus of an especially aggressive driver, but waiting until you’re home to safely vent your frustration is far better than never making it home at all.