The State With the Worst Road Rage

Honolulu’s famous H-3 highway

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Why you should care

Because there goes your vacation.

Mark Char stepped out from his car, seething with road rage, to confront the drivers behind him. Then came the pepper spray, flying like sparks. But the scene didn’t turn deadly until 23-year-old Deion Anunciacion spotted the silver glint of a knife protruding from Char’s knuckles. Although neither Char nor Anunciacion could be reached for comment, legal records reveal that Char left behind a triple stabbing and a blood bath on Interstate H-1 in Honolulu last August. But sadly, this was no one-off. Turns out, this paradise — awash in sun-kissed waters and pristine beaches — is also full of scorching tempers.

America’s most ill-tempered drivers are in Hawaii, says social media.

Given the Aloha State’s reputation for easy and breezy, one might expect more cool-headed drivers than, say, Boston (no offense). But that’s not the case at all, says Justin Loera, a senior market analyst at the Auto Insurance Center in Texas. He pored through more than 65,000 posts on Instagram bearing the hashtag #RoadRage to pin down exactly where drivers felt the most fury behind the wheel across the U.S. In this unorthodox research, Hawaii won by a long shot — at 5,872 posts per 100,000 drivers, compared to runner-up California with only 3,506 posts per 100,000 drivers. “That’s an exceptional prevalence of road rage,” says Loera.

Sorry to shatter your fantasy of tropical mai tais by the sea. Loera figures a combination of too few highways and year-round tourists leads to hair-pulling heights of bumper-to-bumper traffic inside Hawaii, which faces a horde of nearly 9 million out-of-towners every year. “The way people drive is a kind of psychological barometer of how stressed [people] are in their daily lives,” says professor Leon James, who researches driving psychology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In fact, Honolulu is considered one of America’s most congested cities — both INRIX’s traffic data and GPS maker TomTom peg the city in their top 10. Add in a total of four days spent in stop-and-go traffic per person every year and roads full of disoriented tourists constantly glancing at their GPS. Driving in Hawaii is certainly no stroll on the beach, says James.

To be sure, social media may not be the best measuring stick. Maybe Hawaiians are more apt to post their white-hot fury on the internet than others on the mainland, says Loera. “This methodology isn’t intended to be a holistic indicator of road rage,” he says, “but rather a useful vector into a larger phenomenon.” Most instances of road rage never grace the pages of Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, he points out. Meanwhile, Leon suggests another problem could be at play: Hawaiians might be nice people — too nice. By his numbers, Hawaii is one of the least aggressive states — with overly courteous drivers who halt to let cars merge, yield to other drivers on the road, drive too slow and hold back the flow of traffic to everyone else’s detriment.

So, like Goldilocks and her porridge, driving has a sweet spot, says Leon: not too fast, not too slow and not too hot-headed. But just in case you ever find yourself on Hawaii’s highways, keep an eye out for the islands’ road warriors. Take a wrong turn and the volcanic event you encounter might not be tectonic.

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