Are We A Nation Of Horn-Honking Hulks And Road Ragers?

From knives to hammers and even chainsaws, a recent spate of vicious road rage incidents across Australian cities have been making headlines.

Smartphone videos, dash cam footage and media reports would suggest that we are a nation of horn honking hulks and road ragers.

On Thursday, footage recorded on a phone in western Sydney showed two women punching a man after a driving dispute.

The possible catalyst for the female-led fist fight was one car mounting a roundabout and cutting off another car. IMAGE: supplied

Earlier this month, a Melbourne man was attacked with a hammer in a road rage incident.

Last month, two young Perth men who terrorised a driver and smashed his window with a baseball bat while live-streaming on Facebook were jailed.

In December, a Sydney man was stabbed in front of his family in a bitter bitumen battle.

This paints a dire picture of Aussie drivers.

So, how bad are we?

Dr Amanda Stephens from Monash University Accident Research Centre says there are no official statistics that adequately capture the incidence of or trends in aggression or violence associated with driving.

"Is it increasing or are we just talking about it more because we have mobile phones and cameras in cars?" she said.

"Road rage’’ in itself is hard to define. The term coined in the late 1980s in the United States after a series of shootings on Los Angeles freeways resulted in angry or aggressive behaviour by drivers.

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It can include selfish driving, road hostility and intimidation right through to road violence.

NSW Criminal Court Statistics from July 2015 to July 2018 shows a 35 percent increase in road rage related offences before the courts.

Western Sydney IMAGE: supplied

This includes predatory driving, menacing driving (1st office) and menacing driving (subsequent offences).

Of these cases over the same period, there was a 32 percent increase in the number of people found guilty.

Victoria has a different way of measuring road rage -- police can flag that a 'road user confrontation' was also present in relation to other criminal offences including assault, robbery and negligent acts endangering people.

From 2015 to 2018 there is a downward trend and a decrease of around 30 percent. Yet men continue to be far more likely to be perpetrators than women.

Road rage Brisbane tradies last October caught on camera. IMAGE: supplied

ACT Police told 10 daily it has no clear way of measuring road rage and are unable to comment on its prevalence.

In 2017, Stephens and her research team produced what is considered the most recent and comprehensive local study into road rage.

What was particularly new or surprising for us was that 18 percent of drivers said they chase another driver when they are raging, with the intent of showing that other driver that they are angry.

Stephens said her study showed that people do it if they feel they can get away with it, and also if they have friends and family who behave this way.

"And there is definitely a relationship between and other illegal behaviours on the road like drink driving and speeding," she said.

Long's research  has also found that road rage triggers include:

  • driver-related factors such as age, gender, beliefs, or mood;
  • environmental stressors such as heavy traffic, time pressures, roadworks, or weather;
  • our interpretations of the incident;
  • other factors such as the anonymity we feel in the car, or the inability to communicate in another way

Driver anger towards cyclists was explored in a recent survey.

Late last year Australian Cycling Alliance released a video of a violent road rage incident in Melbourne, to highlight attacks on cyclists. IMAGE: supplied

The 2018 survey of 2,000 motorists found that one in five Australian drivers have admitted to experiencing road rage or acting aggressively towards cyclists.

The Ford survey found swearing, horn honking and gesturing found to be highest among drivers aged 18 to 34.

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