#RoadRage - Instagram Posts Reveal America's Biggest Frustrations Behind the Wheel
Driving can be infuriating. Someone tailgates you, swerves in front of you, or won’t let you in when you need to change lanes. Traffic grinds to a halt on the highway when you’re already late for work. One guy’s blinker is still flashing incessantly five minutes after he turned, yet other drivers won’t use their blinkers at all. Are you feeling hot under the collar yet?
According to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatal accidents caused by road rage or aggressive driving has risen dramatically since 2004. And these numbers don’t even take into account non-deadly accidents or other less serious (yet still scary) incidents.
The rise of social media has given motorists new ways to vent their driving-related frustrations – a much better option than expressing anger while behind the wheel. To learn more about commuters’ frustrations, we analyzed 65,535 Instagram posts hashtagged #RoadRage to find out where, when, and why American drivers are feeling most aggravated. Want the details? Keep calm and read on.
#RoadRage Throughout the Year
Based on the average number of #RoadRage posts, August is the worst month for furious drivers. The summer months tend to see an increased number of cars on the road, as teens are out of school and families head out of town for vacation. Motorists are more likely to consume alcohol before they drive too. These factors can all produce the perfect storm for frustration on the road. July claims second place, while October and March vie for third.
Looking at days for #RoadRage posts reveals an intriguing pattern. Sunday sees the fewest posts on average, and the #RoadRage messages increase steadily as the week goes on. Road rage mentions peak on Friday, with nearly 10,500 posts on average, before dropping sharply on Saturday. The low rate of posts on weekends may point to a clear correlation between commuter-filled roads and incidents of anger.
#RoadRage Throughout the Day
The above chart depicting the times of day people posted about #RoadRage provides a striking picture of road rage prevalence throughout the average day. Based on post times, the morning drive yields relatively few anger-inducing incidents.
#RoadRage posts increase throughout the morning and into the lunch hour before peaking in the early evening: otherwise known as rush hour. Between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., as harried commuters fight traffic to make it home, posts hit their peak – with more than 8,800 (13.4%) of the messages we reviewed happening during those two hours. After the peak, posts gradually decrease in a pattern that virtually mirrors that of the morning.
#RoadRage Across the Country
Mapping geotagged #RoadRage posts reveals the states whose residents are most prone to becoming enraged while they drive. Interestingly, drivers in Hawaii by far feel the most hostility behind the wheel. One possible cause? Traffic in Honolulu was recently ranked third-worst in the nation. The Aloha State also ranked in the top 10 states popular for tourists – and as many locals can attest, an influx of out-of-state motorists trying to navigate unfamiliar roads can be stressful at best.
California ranks second for #RoadRage posts. The top state for tourism sees more than its share of out-of-state drivers, along with some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. New York, New Jersey, and Nevada come next.
Top Cities for #RoadRage
We looked at geotagged #RoadRage posts originating from certain cities and adjusted the numbers to account for population. It turns out that getting angry on the road is all the rage in big cities: particularly Los Angeles and New York City, which ranked first and second. Mount Pleasant, NC, came in third, followed by Chicago.
One recent study revealed that New York City and Los Angeles both rank high when it comes to average commute times – and more time spent commuting translates into increased risk of various lifestyle issues, including depression and anxiety, decreased happiness levels, and poor sleep quality. In light of this information, it’s easy to see how hours spent on the road could lead to frustration for motorists.
What People Are Saying in #RoadRage Posts
When motorists share #RoadRage in posts, the most commonly mentioned phrase is a telling one: “traffic.” Generic terms about cars and people are also quite frequent, as are hashtags for specific areas: New York City, Los Angeles, and Brooklyn. A few words stand out in relation to specific situations: “stuck,” “work,” “trafficjam,” and “rushhour.” Adjectives abound – from “terrible” to “crazy,” “worst” to “angry” – and numerous profanities make the cut as well.
Our analysis of #RoadRage posts on social media revealed some interesting trends about the times, locations, and other details around motorists’ frustrating incidents. However, true road rage – characterized by violence, injury, and even death – is a sobering issue about which true offenders are not likely to post on social media.
How can you thwart feelings of anger on the road? Allow for extra time in case you run into delays, adjust your schedule to avoid driving through the worst traffic, and listen to music while you drive. If you start to feel angry, it’s vital to relax, breathe deeply, and consider taking a break to stretch your legs or sip some water.
If you’re concerned about becoming a victim of road rage, your main focus should be on steering clear of aggressive drivers.
- Never challenge fellow motorists.
- Ignore rude gestures (and never direct an obscene gesture toward another driver).
- Try to use your horn only when necessary as it can anger other drivers.
- If you’re concerned about an aggressive driver, immediately report the situation to law enforcement.
- Whether you’re a potential aggressor or victim, calm, collected, and levelheaded actions may prevent a tragedy.
We analyzed 65,535 Instagram posts from June 2013 through April 2016. Ranking of cities and states was based on the 5,183 posts that were geotagged. Instagram’s time stamps are in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). We converted them to Eastern Standard Time by subtracting four hours. For the analysis of most frequently used words, we excluded common short terms unrelated to traffic.