Road rage and aggressive driving

There is widespread public concern about the increasing incidence and severity of aggressive driver behaviours.

European research suggests that drivers feel more threatened by aggressive behaviour than drink driving (Townsend and Avenoso 2008, p24).

Frequent reports of ‘road rage’ encompass a broad range of unacceptable retaliations to road user behaviour from rude gestures or swearing to assault or murder, and the normalisation of ‘road rage’ is believed to contribute to the increase in this type of behaviour (Watson in Sunshine Coast Daily 2009).
The RACQ acknowledges that driving is a complex task, which places varying demands on the driver according to different environments. How drivers behave can have a dramatic effect on reactions from other road users. Therefore, care, courtesy and awareness are all very important attributes of a safe road user.

As a counter to aggressive and ‘me first’ driving behaviour, the RACQ promotes a ‘sharing the road’ courteous approach to road use.

TNS Opinion research conducted for RYD also found a link between drivers who show aggressive behaviour on the road in turn being subjected to aggressive road user behaviour  (2008, p32).  

Promoting courtesy among road users should therefore result in a reduction of aggressive driver behaviour.

RACQ Advice:  

RACQ advice to drivers to help avoid aggressive driver behaviour is to:
  • Remain calm and relaxed
  • Drive defensively and make allowances for errors by others
  • Adopt a ‘share the road’ rather than a ‘me first’ approach to driving
  • Use the horn sparingly and only as a warning device
  • Leave unpleasant encounters or delays in the past and concentrate on the rest of the trip
  • Don’t try to police other road users’ behaviours
Since 2000 (Peters 2007, p21), the Queensland Police Service’s state-wide traffic complaints system has allowed recording of complaints made by members of the public in relation to the driving behaviour of other road users, and served as a management and intelligence resource for the Queensland Police Service (Queensland Police Service 2009).

Members of the public wishing to make complaints are advised to make complaints in person at a police station, where the officer enters the complaint into the system (Queensland Police Service 2009). Further investigation of complaints is based on the seriousness of the offence and the likelihood of obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution, with traffic complaints that clearly identify an offending driver or vehicle being thoroughly investigated (Queensland Police Service 2009). In instances where the offending driver or vehicle cannot be clearly identified, location-based education, awareness and enforcement may be an option (Queensland Police Service 2009).

The Queensland Police Service (2009) advises that from 2007 to 20 April 2009, a total of 7,490 traffic complaints were recorded on the complaints system and that of these, 5,840 have been closed or finalised. Traffic complaints can often result in infringement notices or cautions being issued (Queensland Police Service 2009).

It is important that rather than trying to enforce road rules themselves, drivers inform police of inappropriate road user behaviour.  

RACQ Research

RACQ research in 2011 into the most concerning/annoying road user behaviours suggests that Queensland drivers are most concerned about:
  1. Drivers who follow too closely/tailgate. 
  2. Motorists who increase their speed when you try to overtake them. 
  3. Motorists who throw litter out of vehicles. 
  4. Motorists talking/sending text messages on hand-held mobile phones. 
  5. Motorists who incorrectly use indicators e.g., indicate too late or fail to indicate at all 
  6. Motorists displaying aggressive behaviour e.g., blowing horn, verbal abuse, hand signals. 
  7. Motorists who are not courteous e.g., allowing room to merge/change lanes. 
  8. Motorists who do not move over to allow others to overtake. 
  9. Motorists who block intersections. 
  10. Motorists who turn from the wrong lane e.g., at multi-lane roundabouts.

Safe travelling distance - everybody likes their space!

Everyone likes their personal space, especially when driving. Giving a two second gap between you and the vehicle travelling in front gives you enough space to stop safely to avoid a collision.

Are you this kind of driver?

RACQ research shows tailgating, mobile phone use while driving and aggressive behaviour like verbal abuse and gesturing are some of the most frustrating driver habits on the road. So why does it continue? “You don’t behave like this at the supermarket. So why is it okay on the road?”

    1. Promote driver courtesy.
    2. Continue to provide accurate information to road users on current road rules, improve their awareness of responsibilities and educate them on how to interact safely, e.g., avoiding tailgating.
    3. Continue education campaigns in coordination with appropriate and timely enforcement activities targeting unsafe/antisocial road user behaviours, e.g., hand-held mobile phone use, roundabout use, following too closely, indicator use, changing lanes, littering from vehicles, merging and hooning offences.
    4. Continue to monitor and address trends in unsafe road use, e.g., incidents reported to Queensland Police Service’s public complaints database.
    5. Investigate better enforcement methods for aggressive driving behaviours, e.g., tailgating.
    6. Introduce a mandatory code of conduct for advertisers to ensure consistent and positive message about road user safety are presented in the media and to avoid glamorising unsafe vehicle and road use practices.
    7. Improve awareness among road users of the need to prepare and plan for trips to reduce en-route stress and anxiety.
    8. Further research aggressive and anti-social driving, with a view to helping to identify sources and developing countermeasures.
    9. Promote the environmental and economic benefits of driving more considerately (of other drivers) and sympathetically (of the vehicle).
  • Folkman, Lisa-Marie 2005, ‘Queensland’s Anti-Hoon Legislation and Policing Methods used to Prevent Hooning Behaviour’, 2005 Road Safety Research, Policing and Education Conference Proceedings, Web Document, Accessed 09/04/09:

    Peters, B 2007, ‘Tell the police’ in The Road Ahead, October/November 2007 Edition, The Road Ahead Publishing Co, Springwood, Queensland, Australia.

    Queensland Police Service 2008, Annual Report 2007-08, Queensland Police Service, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Queensland Police Service 2009, Correspondence with Tucker, J. 27/04/09.

    Townsend, E. and Avenoso, A. 2008, "Road Safety as a right and responsibility for all": A Blueprint for the EU’s 4th Road Safety Action Programme 2010 – 2020, European Transport Safety Council, Brussels, Belgium.

    TNS Opinion 2008, European Survey: Courtesy on the Road, Responsible Young Drivers, Web Document, Accessed 31/05/12:

    Watson, B in Sunshine Coast Daily 2009, Angry Coast drivers, 29th January 2009, Web Document, Accessed 09/02/09:

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.