Like the flow of traffic, the stream of insults on the city's roads is intensifying, a new survey shows. In the road-rage ranking, drivers in New York now are second only to Miami, and motorists here are the most likely to express their outrage at bad drivers through aggressive fist shaking and obscene gestures, topping the list of drivers in the 25 major American cities polled.
New York drivers also received high marks for verbally abusing drivers who slammed on their brakes, cut across traffic lanes, or drove too fast or too slowly. Overall, city drivers rose to second place from third last year. Last year's no. 2, Phoenix, fell to no. 14.
Theatrical behavior behind the wheel has become a source of pride for many New York motorists. The Bronx cheers doled out daily by cabbies and commuters alike is, for bona fide New Yorkers, something of a cathartic experience, they said.
"I'm guilty as charged," a clinical psychologist who works and drives in Manhattan, Nancy Julius, said. "There are days when I'm ashamed of it, and there are days when I'm proud to have outmaneuvered someone else."
Some city drivers said they were surprised that Miami beat them to the top of the list and speculated that retired New Yorkers who have relocated to Florida helped the traffic-clogged Southern city climb to the top.
"I don't know how Miami could have beaten us," a taxi driver with 29 years' experience, Roy Seligson, said. "New York drivers have to be the worst. They don't signal, and they make decisions at the last minute."
"They're all demented and running each other over in Miami because they can't see over the steering wheel," Ms. Julius said.
About 21% of New York City drivers polled said they make obscene gestures at bad drivers, up from about 10% last year. About 30% of commuters polled admitted to having cursed at another driver in the past month, according to the survey, conducted by the national auto club AutoVantage.
Some city motorists say they only realized how bad their roadside manner had become when they drove in another city.
An artist and resident of Astoria, Queens, Carmela Kolman, recalled pulling what she called "a real New Yorker kind of move" in Columbus, Ohio, when she made a U-turn and blocked traffic to secure a parking space on the opposite side of the road.
"A woman pulled up alongside me, and I was waiting for her to hurl obscenities at me," Ms. Kolman said. "She turned red and called me an ‘out-of-towner.' You'd just never get that here."
About 2% of New York drivers admitted to slamming into the back of another vehicle intentionally in reaction to rude or aggressive driving, and the study found that younger drivers with the longest commutes are the most aggressive, rude drivers. Men and women, the survey showed, are about equally enraged behind the wheel. Drivers polled said cutting across lanes, speeding, driving too slowly, and talking on cell phones are the most frequent causes of road rage.
"We're no. 2 and trying harder," a spokesman for the American Automobile Association of New York, Robert Sinclair, said when asked about the poll. "In surveys we've done, our members say that road rage is as bad of a problem as drunk driving."
More than 2,500 regular commuters in 25 major American cities were polled for the road rage survey. The top five rudest cities were Miami, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. But one state that didn't make the list surprised some New Yorkers more than all of the cities that did. "The worst driving in the country hands down," said a Starbucks barista who asked not to be named, "has got to be in Jersey."