Drivers Still Among Rudest in U.S.

Area 5th-Worst Again in Survey (You Got a Problem With That?)

Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 15, 2008; Page B03

As traffic in the Washington region continues to worsen, wrecking dinner plans, ruining Little League games and raising the blood pressure of millions every day, a new survey offers some (small) consolation: At least we're not getting any ruder on the roads.

In the third annual AutoVantage Road Rage Survey, released this week, the Washington region maintained the dubious honor bestowed upon it last year, ranking as the fifth-rudest metropolitan area in the country, according to motorists surveyed.

"So we're still lewd, rude and crude, huh?" said John B. Townsend II, of AAA Mid-Atlantic. "It speaks about the Jekyll-and-Hyde personality. We will do things behind the wheel, say things to people behind the wheel, that we wouldn't say face to face. Traffic has become so depersonalizing that it lapses the sense of who we are and what we are."

Miami, Boston, New York and Baltimore are listed as less courteous than Washington, which is considered worse than congestion havens Atlanta and Los Angeles. The most courteous cities were Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., Seattle, Minneapolis and Cleveland.

For some Washington area drivers, fifth place was a shockingly good rank.

"I'm surprised it's not 1 or 2," said Mitch Sherman, 59, of Columbia, who commutes an hour and 10 minutes to his job in Old Town Alexandria. At least once a year for the past five years, "somebody's given me the finger or yelled something," he said.

Although he might have reciprocated in his younger days, not anymore.

"Nowadays, people might pull out a gun," he said. "You just don't know."

Just how are Washingtonians expressing their rage? Oh, the usual: Forty-nine percent said they had honked their horns in anger in the month before the survey; 35 percent said they had cursed at another driver; 8 percent said they had made an obscene gesture; and 1 percent said they had slammed into the car in front of them deliberately.

"You actually see people using their car as a weapon in some cases," said Todd Smith, a spokesman for AutoVantage, a national auto club.

The study also found that Washington was the most likely place for drivers to slam on their brakes at the last minute; 40 percent said they see that daily.

Veteran cabdriver Yousuf Safa, of Burke, said the best response to road rage is to look the other way.

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