From Road Rage to Everyday Automotive Incivility: A Routine Activities Approach to Low-Level Deviance


Direct all correspondence to Philip Smith, Department of Sociology, Yale University, PO Box 208265, New Haven, CT 06520; e-mail:


Classic sociological theory emphasizing human ecology and the convergence of persons in time and space motivated the “routine activities” approach in criminological research. Empirical work in this tradition focuses on predatory offending, and it has rarely been considered as a theoretical basis for the study of more common, low-level (mostly nonviolent) deviance. Using commonplace “automotive incivility” as a test case, the present work draws on the routine activities approach in precisely this manner to answer recent theoretical calls for an empirical sociology of familiar encounters and situations. Using data from a nationally representative sample of Australians, this article looks at the time/space distribution, situational commonalities, and emotional consequences of vehicular incivilities. Risk factors consistent with the routine activities paradigm include everyday driving activity and microsituations involving mixed speeds, crowded conditions, and blocked flows. Results also suggest that automotive incivility is more likely than other types of incivility to incite feelings of fear and anger.