Are road rage and maddening traffic congestion linked?

It’s easy to get ticked-off by tie-ups

TRAFFIC FATALITIES HAVE gone up in Massachusetts in recent years, but is anyone tracking road rage incidents? There have been a few notable ones in the last few months and weeks.

In Danvers last month, a 33-year-old woman from Gloucester duked it out with a 64-year-old Beverly woman on the roadway of Route 128, leading to charges against both.

Earlier this month on Interstate 93 in Andover, State Police responded to reports of a fistfight in the breakdown lane, but they didn’t make it there in time to talk to the assailants.

Last week, a 33-year-old Avon man and another driver allegedly flashed weapons at each other while driving down Interstate 93 southbound.

On Monday, three men scrapped on a Hyde Park roadway before getting back into their pickup trucks and driving off.

And let’s not forget the bizarre and potentially deadly encounter earlier this year that saw one driver clinging to the hood of his adversary’s vehicle at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

What is going on? Around two thirds of commuters in Massachusetts feel stressed, angry or frustrated by delays in their travel, according to a MassINC Polling Group survey released this week. It’s hardly a leap to suggest some drivers are taking out their anger on those around them.

The Baker administration has commissioned a study looking at traffic congestion hot spots, which is due out in the next few months.

A study put out by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 2016 found that over the course of one year, 51 percent of drivers purposefully tailgated, 45 percent honked out of anger or frustration, 4 percent got out of their vehicle to confront someone, and 3 percent purposefully bumped or rammed another vehicle. That 3 percent adds up to 5.7 million drivers.

All of those behaviors can escalate a traffic dispute into something more serious, Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Northeast, told the Salem News for a story Wednesday.

Meet the Author

Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

“You would never walk down a sidewalk and shout at someone, you wouldn’t try to trip someone or push someone,” Maguire said. “Yet when we get in our cars, we forget some of the manners we would exhibit in face-to-face contact.”

Maguire and others have backed a road safety bill that would crack down on the use of cellphones by drivers. Cellphones can distract those behind the wheel leading to fatal crashes. One minor irony is the reason many of these latest road rage incidents have received so much attention is the cellphone video – captured not necessarily by a driver – of the dramatic and dangerous standoffs.