Aggressive driving. Road rage. You’ve definitely witnessed some form of it – or may be even indulged in some form of it – on the road. The news is often rife with reports of bad driving incidents and accidents, ranging from the bizarre to downright horrifying. The AAA (American Automobile Association) recently reported that a staggering 80% of American drivers were prone to demonstrating aggression or anger behind the wheel, and around 8 million of those drivers took their aggression to extremes with behaviors such as tailgating and confrontations. In fact, the AAA has ascertained that 56% of fatal crashes have stemmed from aggressive driving.
What Exactly is Aggressive Driving?
Aggression on the roads can take many forms, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) broadly defines aggressive driving as “when an individual commits a combination of traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”
The NHTSA differentiates aggressive driving and road rage, however: aggressive driving can get you a ticket; road rage can land you in the slammer.
Driving Offenses that Fall under Aggressive Driving:
Driving too close to the car ahead of you, aka, tailgating.
- Failing to signal while making a turn or changing lanes.
- Deliberately cutting other drivers off, preventing them from changing lines.
- Driving on the road shoulder, median or ditch, or too close to or on the sidewalks.
- Driving under or over the speed limits.
- Insistent honking and yelling at other drivers on the road.
- Failure to yield the right-of-way.
- Failure to obey traffic signals, traffic signs or safety zone traffic laws.
Aggressive behaviors often occur due to a number of factors including: personal stress, frustration due to traffic congestion, time constraint (running late) and sometimes, downright arrogance where drivers have a false feeling of security behind the wheel or of being above the law.
Every so or often, these factors can pile up and that can result in road rage. Road rage can be viewed as an extreme extension of aggressive driving that is often a result of a driver “snapping” and involves incidents of violence against other drivers such as:
- Deliberately trying to outrun/race another car.
- Deliberately bumping or nudging the car in front of you.
- Brandishing a weapon or any dangerous object with intent to deliberately damage the other vehicle
- OR harm another driver or pedestrian.
- Deliberately running a car off the road.
What Should You Do if You Recognize an Aggressive Driver?
- Stay out of the way. Remember, if they’re exhibiting behaviors that disregard their OWN safety, your own safety is hardly a priority. Change lanes (once it’s safe) and maintain your distance.
- Don’t engage. If you’re a target of their aggression, keep your calm and stick to your speed limit.
- Never retaliate. If you do, you become part of the problem, as well.
- Call 911.
Learning to recognize aggressive behavior both in other drivers and in yourself is a paramount aspect of road safety. While handling behaviors in other drivers, understand that you have to do whatever it takes to avoid any aggression on your own end, as well.
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