What is aggressive driving?
Aggressive driving is often given the old "I know it when I see it" definition, however, it needs to be defined to be targeted and reduced. Aggressive driving is defined as any behind-the-wheel behavior that places another person (or people) and/or property in danger through willful action without regard to safety. Aggressive driving can range from risky behavior to that which escalates to serious violence. Common driving behaviors include: tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, passing on the shoulder, speeding, cutting off traffic, honking, yelling, flashing headlights and using inappropriate gestures. In the extreme, it can include bumping or ramming another vehicle or brandishing weapons.
Who's an aggressive driver?
The majority of these incidents involve men between the ages of 18 and 26. However, the number of aggressive women drivers is on the rise. There is also a general increase of women on the roadways at higher risk times, such as rush hour and at night.
How big is the aggressive driving problem?
State Farm and KRC Research conducted an online survey of 1,000 U.S. drivers over 18 years old and learned there's room for improvement. According to the survey nearly two out of three (64 percent) U.S. drivers have experienced an act of aggressive driving six times or more in the past three months from another driver.
With a large number of drivers affected by aggressive driving already, the new survey revealed nearly a third of drivers say their likelihood to engage in aggressive driving increases during the winter holidays.
Survey Key Findings
- Forty-four percent of drivers reported that they have engaged in aggressive driving behaviors in the past three months.
- 32 percent of younger drivers (ages 18-29), 28 percent of middle aged drivers (ages 30-49) and parents (30 percent) were significantly more likely to report being provoked to engage in aggressive driving around the major winter holidays compared to only 9 percent of older drivers (ages 50 and older) and non-parents (15 percent).
- About half of survey respondents perceive men and women to be equally courteous when driving. When it comes to aggressive driving, however, the majority (54 percent) of drivers cite men as the most likely culprits of aggressive driving, compared to only one in 10 who said that women are more likely. The remaining 37 percent of drivers reported men and women to be equally likely to engage in aggressive driving.
- Top situations most likely to make drivers respond aggressively were traffic jams (63 percent), running late (55 percent) and road closures or construction (47 percent).
What's the law?
Aggressive driving is most commonly charged under the reckless driving statute, but if the driving behavior escalates it can result in a variety of other safety citations and criminal charges. In 1998, Arizona became the first state to enact a law making aggressive driving a crime. Nearly 17 states have considered road rage legislation (Colorado legislators considered and rejected several pieces of Aggressive Driving legislation in the 2001 Session) and some communities have adopted special ordinances that specifically target aggressive driving. For example, Douglas County, Colorado has an ordinance that allows officers to double the fine, if they determine the offense is an aggressive driving violation.
Road Rage is as Old as Automobiles...
Aggressive driving isn't anything new. Here are some newspaper quotes that show hostile driving is more a state of mind than a sign of the times:
1915: "Some automobilists... Run over the rights of others."
1954: "He runs through red lights or jumps the gun before the light has turned green... Cuts in and out, races, and gets ahead of everybody else."
1978: "People are beginning to lose control... They get frustrated at the stack-ups on our freeways, they get angry at other inconsiderate drivers, their tolerance level overflows. They explode."
1979: "Angry motorists are using tons of speeding metal as deadly weapons."
1988: "Polite drivers are becoming as rare as rain in August."
Don't be a Victim of Aggressive Driving
The best offense against aggressive driving is a good defense.
Cutting-off. When you merge, make sure you have plenty of room. Use turn signals before making your move. If you make a mistake, apologize with an appropriate gesture. If someone cuts you off, slow down and give them room to merge.
Driving slowly in the left lane. Even if you are traveling at the speed limit, if someone wants to pass, move over to the right lane and let them by.
Tailgating. Allow at least two seconds between you and the car ahead. If you think another car is driving too slowly and you are unable to pass, pull back and allow more space, not less. You should be able to see the headlights of the car behind you in your rear-view mirror.
Gestures. Keep your hands on the wheel. Avoid making a gesture that might anger another driver, even seemingly harmless ones, like shaking your head.
Be cautious and courteous. Use your turn signals, avoid using your horn, allow other drivers to merge.
Don't engage. One angry driver can't pick a fight unless someone else is willing to join in. You can best protect yourself against angry drivers by refusing to return their anger.
Steer clear. Give angry drivers plenty of room. If the other driver tries to engage you in a "road war," put as much distance between your vehicle and theirs, and then try to get away as quickly as possible. Do not follow them, or under any circumstances pull over to "settle things."
Avoid eye contact. This can escalate the situation by making it too personal.
Get help. If you have a cellular phone use it to call the police (in Colorado dial *CSP to report suspected road rage). Otherwise, drive to a place where there are people around, such as the police station, a convenience store, mall or even a hospital. Do not get out of your car. Do not drive home.
Adjust your attitude and slow down. Consider the consequences of your own mental attitude behind the wheel. Give yourself extra time to get where you need to be and keep a positive, relaxed frame of mind.
Road Rage Quiz
Are you an aggressive driver? Check the following behaviors you have caught yourself doing at least twice.
_____ Mentally condemn other drivers.
_____ Belittle other drivers to passengers in your car.
_____ Close the space between you and the car in front of you so another car can't merge.
_____ Give another driver a "dirty" look.
_____ Prevent another driver from passing you or speed past another car in protest.
_____ Tailgate to pressure another driver to go faster or get out of your way.
_____ Think or fantasize violence against another driver.
_____ Honk, yell or make obscene gestures at other drivers.
_____ Use your car to threaten or intimidate others by making sudden moves.
_____ Chase down another car because of an insult or infraction.
_____ Get out of the car and yell at another driver.
_____ Deliberately bump or ram another car in anger.
_____ Try to run another car off the road.