The Dangers of Aggressive Auto Driving

People across the country spend a significant amount of time inside their cars. Often this time is spent rushing to work, to school, or to pick up one's child. It is also spent waiting on things that are typically out of one's control, such as traffic, street lights, and slower drivers ahead. Under certain circumstances, these things can contribute a sense of stress, frustration, impatience, or anger, resulting in a combination that may make drivers behave in a less than courteous manner. When a person drives in a way that involves speeding, tailgating, angry honking, weaving through traffic, yelling, using obscenities, displaying rude gestures, or flashing one's headlights at other drivers, it is called aggressive driving. This type of behavior behind the wheel of a car, truck, or SUV can be dangerous to the driver and to others who share the road. Because anyone behind the wheel of a car can display these aggressive traits, it is important for people to understand the seriousness of it.

The Dangers of Aggressive Driving

The dangers that are associated with driving aggressively are plentiful. Most obvious is the risk of getting into an automobile accident. Whether one is the aggressor or the victim, auto accidents born of aggression can result in injuries ranging from mild to debilitating. According to nationwide statistics taken in 2010, speeding was the cause of one out of every three crashes ending in fatalities. In 2013 crash statistics issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, it was revealed that speeding was responsible for over 9,600 crash-related deaths. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety claims in its most recent update on aggressive driving that as much as 56 percent of deadly crashes are a result of key factors of aggressive driving. These factors include, but are not limited to tailgating, failure to yield, illegal passing, or driving erratically. Additionally, it increases the risk of road rage and incidents related to road rage. When aggressive driving devolves into road rage, the consequences can be violent and fatal.

In addition to the dangers to one's health and life, the financial loss due to an accident can also be substantial. People who drive aggressively are in danger of being arrested or fined for reckless behavior, particularly in states that have adopted aggressive driving laws. Drivers may find themselves paying higher auto insurance premiums and making repairs that can be costly due to labor and expensive car parts. New car parts and repairs may not be enough if one's automobile is totaled. If this happens, purchasing a new vehicle may be necessary.

How to Avoid Being an Aggressive Driver

Because aggressive driving involves stress, impatience, and anger, it is important to behave and drive in a manner that does not encourage these feelings. Drivers must first understand that they cannot control certain aspects of driving. This includes how other people drive, traffic flow, weather, construction, etc. What drivers are capable of controlling are the actions that they personally take. Allowing enough travel time is an effective way of easing and even preventing frustration while driving. People should leave early enough that encounters with slower drivers or being caught in traffic won't put them at risk of being late. They should think twice about giving in to negative impulses and driving patterns that fuel aggression, such as blocking drivers who attempt to pass or merge or attempting to teach other drivers a lesson. Reducing distractions in the car may also encourage feelings of calm, as will avoiding serious conversations with passengers. Drivers should strive for an atmosphere of calm by listening to pleasant music, taking deep breaths, and even remembering to smile.

What to Do If Faced With an Aggressive Driver

Anyone who drives may find themselves encountering an aggressive driver. If the driver is tailgaiting, move over and allow them to pass as soon as it is safe. Do not try to race the driver or slow down and refuse to move out of the way. To avoid escalating the problem into a case of road rage, do not engage the aggressive driver with words or eye contact. For safety reasons, any rude gestures or comments made should be ignored. The goal is to let the driver move away, not challenge or otherwise taunt them. Once the driver has passed, report the vehicle when it is safe to make a call, or have a passenger in the vehicle call. Provide the police with the license plate number, color and type of car, and the direction it went. If the driver becomes overly hostile and does not pass, one should not pull over or stop. If followed, drivers should avoid going home, to work, or to any private or personal location. Preferably, go to a location where there are a lot of people, such as a grocery store, lock all doors and windows, and call 911. If you are in fear for your life, drive directly to a police station for help.

  • Aggressive Driving: The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing is powered by the University at Albany, State University of New York. On its website, drivers interested in learning more about aggressive driving can find this thorough guide on the topic.
  • Aggressive Driving Laws: Drivers can discover if there are laws in their state regarding aggressive driving by clicking on this link to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The page lists states with laws and how the states define aggressive driving.
  • Traffic Safety - Aggressive Driving: The basics regarding aggressive driving are outlined in this article on the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association website. The page also reviews how not to be a victim and a brief timeline of the history of road rage.
  • Information Topic - Aggressive Driving: Just Drive PA is an auto safety website set up by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The information on this aggressive driving page helps explain what aggressive driving is and what one should do if confronted by a driver who is acting aggressively.
  • Behaviors of Aggressive Driving: The traits of an aggressive driver are listed on this page. With each trait, there is also a brief explanation of what to do if faced with the behavior listed.
  • NHTSA- Aggressive Driving: The National Highway Safety Administration offers this information on what drivers need to know about aggressive drivers and what to do when confronted with one.
  • Aggressive Driving Research Update (PDF): These are the most recent statistics on driving aggressively. The statistics were last updated by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in April 2009.
  • General Statistics: Drivers can review statistics regarding speeding and auto accidents here on the IIHS website.
  • Safety Information - Aggressive Driving: Click this link to open a page on the website for the Arizona Department of Public Safety website. The page gives readers basic information about aggressive driving as well as things to avoid, things to do, and what action to take and not take when confronted by this type of driver.
  • Are You a Part of the Problem? (PDF): This is a one-page PDF article on what makes a person an aggressive driver, and how to avoid people who are.
  • Avoid Aggressive Driving - Don't Provoke, Don't Be Provoked (PDF): Learn about what behaviors contribute to driving aggressively by opening this link. Tips are also given on how to avoid the dangers of this type of driving.
  • Put the Breaks on Aggressive Driving: Open this page and read tips on how to stop being an angry driver. Scrolling further down the page is a section on how to avoid becoming a victim of aggressive driving.
  • Are You An Aggressive Driver? (PDF): The PDF file associated with this link is a self-evaluation quiz made available by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. The test consists of two columns of yes-or-no questions, and a key to score ones answers at the bottom of the page.
  • How to Avoid Being an Aggressive Driver: By clicking on this link, readers can review a list of tips on driving less aggressively. The tips are located on the Smooth Operator website.
  • Aggressive Driving - Drive Safe, Drive Smart: Readers who click this link will read about safety concerns and issues that are associated with driving aggressively. After reading the safety portion of the page, readers may click on the "Saving Time" tab to see how much time is actually saved by speeding.
  • SafeNY Aggressive Driving: Although the information on this page was written for people living in New York, most of the information is useful for drivers everywhere. Information on this page includes the reasons for aggressive driving behavior, how to avoid driving while stressed, and how to avoid triggering other drivers.
  • Road Respect: Drivers interested in reducing driving aggression will find ten tips on how to do so by clicking on this link. In addition to the ten tips, advice on how to handle an aggressive encounter is also provided.
  • Vehicle and Driver - Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: This is an information page on the website for the Washington State Patrol. People who open this link are introduced to aggressive driving and its symptoms. They are also given safety tips and advice on what they can do as drivers. Some of the content is specifically for drivers in Washington, however, most of the information is universal.
  • Aggressive Driving Information Page: Open this link to learn about encountering and avoiding aggressive drivers. Information about being a courteous driver is also included near the bottom of the article.
  • Street Skills - Aggressive Drivers: The North Dakota Department of Transportation lists identifying behaviors associated with aggressive driving. People who read the article can use this information to determine if they, too, have a problem with aggression behind the wheel. Information on how to avoid this behavior is also included, as is information about aggressive drivers.
  • Aggressive Driving and Road Rage (PDF): This is a handy brochure for drivers that briefly explains aggressive driving and how it can evolve into road rage. Highlights of the brochure include reasons for aggressive driving, how to avoid it, and behaviors that can cause it.

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