September 2007

Ontario youths targets of road rage

The first study of road rage victimization among adolescents finds that one in 10 Ontario youths say they have been threatened with personal injury or damage to their vehicles and one in 20 were victims of vehicle damage or personal injury. That suggests adolescents are more commonly targets of road rage than adults. The researchers led by Reginald Smart, writing in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, note that since road rage victimization and perpetration (which often seem to be linked) appear to be risk factors for collision involvement among adults, it’s possible their impact could be even greater among adolescents. “The propensity of adolescent drivers for risk-taking could result in an even larger impact of road rage experience on collision risk than seen in adult drivers, if, for example, adolescent drivers are more likely to respond in an aggressive or threatening manner to provocations while driving.”

Research methods

The data were drawn from the 2005 cycle of the Ontario Student Drug Use Survey, a self-administered survey of 7,726 Ontario students, grades 7 through 12, conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Students were asked how many times in the last year they or someone in the vehicle they were in were shouted at, cursed at or had rude gestures made at them by someone in another car; whether someone had threatened to hurt them or the car they were in; and whether anyone had attempted to hurt them or the car they were in.

Students were sampled in Toronto and the northern, western and eastern regions of Ontario.

Research results

More than half – 53.2% – the students reported being shouted at, cursed at or had rude gestures directed at them in the past year, 8.9% were threatened with damage to their vehicle or personal injury and 6.2% were victims in which someone in another car tried to hurt them or damage the car they were in.

Comparable results for adults in similar research found: 40.9% of adults experienced shouts, curses and gestures; 5.3% of adults experienced threats and 3.9% of adults experienced attempts or actual damage to their vehicle or attempts to injure or actual injury.

Male youths had 50% greater chances of experiencing threats than females but the genders were about equally likely to experience the more severe form of victimization.

Adolescents in the western region of Ontario were at greater risk of experiencing mild road rage than Torontonians. Students in the north and east had much lower odds of having experienced the most severe form of road rage victimization compared with those living in Toronto. Road rage more common as youths age.

For all forms of road rage victimization, the data suggest that as adolescents progress through graduated licensing, they are more likely to experience road rage victimization, especially for the more severe forms. “As adolescents progress through the levels of driver’s licensing they probably do more driving and therefore are exposed to more congested or more stressful driving conditions and they may take greater risks or make mistakes that frustrate other drivers as they drive more often without adult supervision,” the researchers write. “They may also be driving more aggressively and/or speeding, which may provoke reactions from other drivers.”

Updated September 11, 2007