Aggressive driving is on the rise, posing a serious threat to personal safety on our roads. Learn how to steer clear of danger and prevent road rage incidents.
Fatal car crashes and dangerous driver encounters linked to an increase in aggressive driving behavior are on the rise.
A significant number of drivers can say they have felt the emotions of aggression, anger, or road rage while in traffic and we have all seen other drivers exhibit dangerous aggressive driving behaviors. Any unsafe driving behavior that is done deliberately can be called aggressive driving.
Because aggressive driving actions are not uncommon, it is important that everyone learn to recognize the causes and avoid the behaviors that lead to aggressive driving and dangerous road rage encounters that in the worst moments, can turn deadly.
Staying alert, remaining calm, and following traffic rules helps makes roads safer and avoids the dangers caused by aggressive driving and road rage.
Aggressive driving and road rage is not acceptable behavior under any circumstances. If you engage in aggressive driving behaviors, you are unnecessarily putting yourself and others at risk.
Aggressive driving is when someone is driving recklessly on purpose, not caring about safety, and putting other people in danger on the road. Examples of aggressive driving acts include:
- Honking the horn over and over in anger or frustration
- Getting out of your vehicle to confront another driver
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Passing another vehicle but on the wrong side of the road
- Pulling into a parking space someone else was waiting for
- Blocking other cars from passing or changing lanes
- Making rude gestures or shouting at other drivers
- Speeding and tailgating
- Running red lights or stop signs
Aggressive driving can escalate to violence. Dangerous behaviors like throwing objects at another vehicle, bumping another car, forcing a driver off the road, or physically assaulting another motorist can be considered criminal offenses and can result in fines or jail time.
Everyday life is already stressful enough due to work, relationships, finances, and lack of time which can affect even those who are usually good at controlling their anger. Driving on busy roads adds even more stress to our busy lives and then simple things, like a car going slower than the speed limit, can make people angry.
Driving is already risky and stressful, making our hearts beat faster and muscles tighten, readying us for strong reactions like anger when something bothers us.
Being inside a car seems like a safe and private place, which can lead drivers to make quick and unsafe choices when they are angry. Because drivers don’t know each other, it’s easy to think badly of someone and make a wrong assumption about why they are driving a certain way.
To avoid becoming an aggressive driver by allowing yourself to let your anger get the best of you, start by adjusting your attitude and changing your approach to driving.
Do what you can to allow more time for your trip. Often our anxiety increases because we don’t have enough time to get where we are going, especially if something slows us down on the way.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends practicing the phrase “be my guest” when other drivers get too close. Allow them to pass, or get the parking spot first, or merge before you so they can be on their way. When the phrase “be my guest” becomes automatic you are less likely to get offended by other drivers' rude behavior.
Protect yourself from those who may be quick to anger on the road by practicing defensive driving techniques when you are behind the wheel. Be a cautious and courteous driver. Do not speed and signal every time you merge, change lanes, or turn.
Make sure you have plenty of room when you merge into traffic. Use your turn signal well in advance to indicate your intentions.
Even if you are going the speed limit, don’t hang out in the left lane especially if drivers behind you want to pass. In many locations the far-left lane is for passing only.
Do not tailgate the vehicle in front of you, even if you think the car (or the traffic) in front of you is driving too slowly. Leave at least a two-second cushion between vehicles to provide enough room to stop in an emergency.
You should be able to see the headlights of the car behind you in your rearview mirror. If you feel like the car behind you is following too closely, signal and pull over to allow the other driver to pass.
If you see a good parking spot at the same time as another driver, just let them have it.
If you find yourself feeling like you are the target of an aggressive driver, stay calm but alert while you try to distance your vehicle away from theirs. It’s important to remember that you cannot control other people, you can only control your actions and reactions when driving.
Do not make eye contact with an angry driver as it could lead to a confrontation, or even make you more upset. Try to avoid and ignore them and keep the encounter as impersonal as possible. Don’t respond to aggression with aggression. Keep your cool and move away from an aggressive driver when it’s safe.
If someone is driving aggressively it is best to assume they are having a really bad day and don’t take it personally. Be understanding and give them space so they don’t put you in danger.
If you feel threatened, call 911 for help. Try to keep driving until you reach a safe public place like a police station, fire station, or busy shopping center. Do not get out of your car and do not go home until the aggressive driver has continued on their way and you feel safe once again.