CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — As more Americans are getting back on the road, drivers are getting more enraged behind the wheel than ever before.

According to a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 20,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in the first half of 2021. That’s up 18.4% compared to 2020. Robert Sinclair from the American Automobile Association joined NewsNation’s “Morning in America” to discuss the findings.

“Really, it’s COVID-induced,” said Sinclair. “The bad behaviors that we got to when the roads were empty last year have continued with the roads crowded this year.”

Sinclair said that with people staying home due to the pandemic in 2020, the roads were a “siren song for speeders.”

“So those folks were engaging in a lot of bad behaviors, speeding, driving impaired by alcohol and marijuana, and they weren’t wearing their seatbelt, and they were distracted,” Sinclair said. “So despite the roads being nearly empty last year, we saw a serious increase of traffic fatalities.”

According to a road rage survey study done by AAA, 57 million drivers reported switching lanes quickly or very close behind another car. In addition, 71 million drivers reported making rude gestures or honking at another driver. And 106 million drivers also admitted to driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit.

Sinclair said although road rage is becoming a more common event, there are steps people can take to avoid it.

“The main factor is, leave yourself a lot of extra time when you’re making a trip. Rather than trying to make time, you should make time count and take it easy,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair also noted that listening to music can also help drivers feel at ease when they are on the road. He also urged drivers not to engage with other drivers.

“If you do something wrong, you know, just kind of keep going, apologize in some way, shape or form,” he said. “Don’t engage in the behaviors that set people off, which is driving slowly in the left lane, tailgating.”

Sinclair said that the increased stress from the pandemic is also pushing drivers to have more anxiety, which can cause anger. 

“We’re all impatient. I think we’re all on edge,” he said. “A lot of us are on edge as a result of COVID.”

Road rage incidents are already causing a spike in insurance rates. Sinclair said that there was a 10% to 15% increase across the board because of crashes from distracted driving.

“It certainly seems like something that with all these road rage incidents happening, that it could go up even more as a result,” he said.