As drivers hit the highways for weekend excursions and road trips, many will lose their basic sense of life’s priorities and drive aggressively. Whether it’s the false sense of control and power that being behind the wheel gives them, or the feeling of anonymity for their actions, aggressive drivers overlook the immediate safety and well-being of themselves, their passengers, and the human life in the vehicles around them. For some, it’s only a matter of time before their emotions blind their shortsightedness and their behavior escalates to the domestic assault of “road rage.” According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than 1,500 people are injured or killed each year in the United States as a result of “aggressive driving.”
From the perspective of law enforcement, road rage and aggressive driving involve speeding, aggressive acceleration, tailgating, and cutting off other drivers. It’s common for aggressive drivers to use their horn excessively, flash their lights unnecessarily, use rude verbal and physical gestures, and even form lane convoys that block access. There is a difference between aggressive driving and road rage though: aggressive driving is a traffic offense while road rage is a criminal offense. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Association), road rage is defined as “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”
Aggressive driving is a behavior that affects every type of driver, including society’s most normal and upstanding men and women. Some psychologists have suggested that certain drivers are more susceptible to losing their tempers behind the wheel than others. In fact, road rage can sometimes fall under the medical explanation of “Intermittent Explosive Disorder,” which affects millions of Americans.
Regardless of whether you yourself are an aggressive driver, or you are a victim of an aggressive driver, there are simple measures you can take to prevent an unfortunate event.
What to do if you’re an aggressive driver:
- Visualize what your behavior would look like in public — if you were not in your car.
- Be a cautious and courteous driver. Take a deep breath, try to relax, and let other motorists pass you, comfortably merge, and take the right-of-way.
- All drivers make mistakes; nevertheless, resist the urge to teach them a lesson. They’ll learn it eventually without your help.
- Don’t make inappropriate hand or facial gestures. Don’t feel like you have to give someone “the finger.”
- Lead by example. Drive the way you want other people to drive. This may mean having to swallow your pride and back away from aggression.
- Don’t be in a rush. Give yourself ample time to get to your destination and understand where you are driving to.
What to do if you’re the target of an aggressive driver:
- Get out of the way.
- Don’t make matters worse by triggering a confrontation. Avoid eye contact and steer clear, giving angry drivers plenty of room.
- Take an unintended turn or highway exit to get away from someone who may be targeting you.
- Try giving an “I’m sorry” wave of your hand (not to be confused with the middle finger).
- Report their license plate, their vehicle make, and the details of your interaction to the authorities immediately.
- Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own.
- If a driver continues to hassle you or you think you are being followed, drive on to the nearest police station or busy place to get help.