Press Releases

2006 Releases

Survey Finds Association Between Presence of Gun in Vehicle and Aggressive Driver Behavior

For immediate release: February 07, 2006  
Boston, MA -- Riding in a vehicle with a firearm is one of a number of markers for aggressive and dangerous driver behavior, according to the results of a national telephone survey that has been published in advance online by the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention. The article is titled, "Is an armed society a polite society? Guns and road rage."

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center (HICRC) at the Harvard School of Public Health commissioned Fact Finders, Inc. to conduct the national random-digit dial telephone survey using established methodology. Fact Finders, Inc. is a research firm in Albany, NY. The research was supported in part by the non-profit Joyce Foundation.

More than 2,400 licensed drivers were asked about events in the previous year, such as: did respondents make obscene or rude gestures at another motorist; did they aggressively follow another vehicle too closely; were they themselves victims of these behaviors. Additional questions were asked, including how many days in the past 12 months had the respondent been in a motor vehicle in which there was a gun.

The results indicated that males, young adults, binge drinkers, those who do not believe most people can be trusted, and those ever arrested for a non-traffic violation were more likely in the past year to report having made obscene or rude gestures at another motorist, and to have aggressively followed another vehicle too closely. Motorists who had ridden in a vehicle with a firearm were also more likely to engage in such behaviors compared to those who had not ridden in a vehicle with a firearm (obscene gestures 23% to 16%; aggressive following 14% to 8%).

The data suggest an association between aggressive driver behavior and a gun being present in a vehicle. "However, we do not know whether the motorist with a firearm in the vehicle had a license to carry," noted David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy and lead author of the article.

Information on the Source and Availability of the Dataset HICRC secured funding from a non-profit foundation for a national survey on firearms. The team is currently analyzing the data, drafting journal articles, and preparing a monograph. "Is an armed society a polite society? Guns and road rage" is the first article from this project.

The team anticipates that it will make the dataset available to researchers in approximately a year. At that time, the team will publish instructions on how to request the data on the HICRC web site.


Christina Roache
HSPH Office of Communications

The primary focus of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center is on the interdisciplinary study of the causes and etiology of injury and its application for the development and evaluation of prevention and intervention strategies and policy. The mission of the Center is to reduce injury through training, research, intervention, evaluation, and dissemination.