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New York City has unseated Miami to earn the dubious distinction as this year’s worst US city for road rage, while Portland, Ore. scored top honors for being the most courteous city to drive in, according to the fourth annual “In the Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey,” commissioned by AutoVantage.

2009 marks the first time in four years that another city replaces Miami as the least courteous, the survey found. The Big Apple moved down from its #3 least-courteous ranking last year, while Miami improved to 7th least courteous.

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Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul round out the five worst cities for road rage.

This year’s rankings – which are based on overall courtesy scores calculated based upon the incidence of angry and aggressive driving behaviors, name a new city as the most courteous as Portland, Ore., moved up from #2 last year. It was followed by Cleveland, Baltimore, Sacramento and Pittsburgh.

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Interestingly, though Minneapolis/St. Paul was named as the fourth most courteous city in 2008, it now has moved into the #5 least courteous spot for 2009.

Defining Road Rage

In an attempt to boost safety awareness among consumers this year’s survey sought to define road rage in America. Responses overwhelmingly pointed to two key attributes:

  • Angry drivers: Including drivers who overreact and lose their tempers
  • Aggressive driving: Including cutting into lanes, tailgating, speeding and honking

Road-Rage Triggers

When asked the major causes of road rage, the most frequent answers among respondents:

  • Bad/careless driving, such as cutting others off, speeding, tailgating, talking on cell phones, making obscene gestures and not using proper signals
  • People who are angry, stressed, frustrated, tired or had a bad day
  • People being in a hurry, impatient or running late
  • Traffic problems, accidents, poor road conditions or construction
  • Inconsiderate, disrespectful, selfish drivers who think they ‘own the road’

The survey also found a number of undesirable behaviors by other drivers that lead to road rage:

  • Drivers talking on cell phones (84% see this every day)
  • Driving too fast (58%)
  • Tailgating (53%)
  • Drivers eating or drinking while driving (48%)
  • Texting or e-mailing while driving (37%)

Perhaps not surprisingly, younger drivers and those who have the longest commutes say they are most likely to talk on their cell phones and drive too fast on a daily basis, AutoVantage said.

Commuters also report often seeing other drivers :

  • Cutting over without notice (43% see this every day)
  • Doing other things – putting on makeup, shaving or reading behind the wheel (27%)
  • Slamming on the brakes (25%)
  • Running red lights (22%)

As a reaction to rude or bad driving by others, people surveyed admit that they:

  • Honk their horn at the offending driver (43% admit doing this every month)
  • Curse at the other driver (36%)
  • Wave their fist or arms (13%)
  • Make an obscene gesture (10%)
  • Call the police to report the driver (7%)
  • Slam into the car in front of them (1%)

Geographic differences in road-rage inducing behaviors:

  • Talking on cell phone: 84% see this every day with St. Louis drivers saying they see this the most (92%), and Portland motorists seeing it least (76%).

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  • Driving too fast: 58% of motorists nationwide see this aggressive behavior daily. San Diego and Houston drivers are most likely to observe speeding motorists (64%), while Cleveland, Denver and Portland drivers were least likely to see them (51%).
  • Tailgating: 53% of motorists see tailgating every day, with Minneapolis drivers (65%) most likely and Pittsburgh drivers least likely (43%),
  • Eating and/or drinking: This road rage trigger is observed by 48% of drivers daily. Motorists in St. Louis (61%) see it most, while 34% of drivers in Pittsburgh observe it.
  • Cutting over without notice: Nationally, 43% of drivers see this every day, with motorists in Miami (54%) most likely to observe this behavior. Cleveland, Philadelphia and Portland drivers (29%) are least likely to see it.
  • Texting and/or e-mailing: These road rage inducers scored high with 37% of commuters, who see it every day. Drivers in Detroit and San Francisco see the most text-happy drivers (47%), while Baltimore and Sacramento see the least (28%).? This incidence is higher than texters report themselves. A recent, nationwide study by Vlingo found that only 26% of mobile users admit to texting while driving.
  • Slamming on the brakes: 25% of drivers witness this daily, and those in Atlanta and San Diego (31%) are most likely to see it. On the other hand, only 19% see it in Boston.
  • Running red lights: 22% of respondents say they see drivers every day who run red lights. Drivers in Minneapolis are the most likely to witness this behavior daily (34%), while Portland motorists (11%) are least likely.
  • Multi-tasking: 27% of motorists say they see other drivers multi-tasking – such activities as putting on makeup, shaving or reading, while driving. This is most likely in Miami (38%) and least likely in Phoenix and Sacramento (19%).

About the study: Prince Market Research, an independent marketing research company conducted this representative telephone study with consumers in 25 major metropolitan areas in the US. All telephone calls were conducted between Jan. 8 and March 24, 2009, during which period, a total of 2,518 interviews, lasting an average of six to eight minutes each, were completed. No incentive was offered and the sponsor of the research was not revealed.

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