The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as occurring when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property”. According to safemotorist.com, 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving. Half of the drivers who are on the receiving end of aggressive behavior such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves. Over a seven-year period, 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage. Yes, I said murders.
Safemotorist.com offers a litmus test for drivers to identify themselves as a possible “road rager”:
- Do you frequently use your phone while driving, or otherwise drive while distracted?
- Do you keep your high beams on, regardless of oncoming traffic?
- Do you switch lanes or make turns without using your turn signal?
- Do you fail to check your blind spot before switching lanes to make sure you aren’t cutting someone off?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s possible you are susceptible to road rage.
I really don’t want to go too deeply into the cause of road rage because the subject becomes less about statistics and more about behaviors, mental health, and many more factors that are difficult to discuss in-depth in this short post. However, I do want to point out that we all make choices every day. We can choose to find a way to forgive the small mistakes others make out on the highway because we all make mistakes. Vehicles can’t communicate like humans do so one could easily misinterpret an action to be aggressive when in reality, it wasn’t. Unfortunately we don’t have an “Oops, I am so sorry I did that” signal.
Defensive driving should come into the picture every time you get behind the wheel. Be alert. Watch what others are doing and, most of all, don’t be distracted so that you lower the potential of making a mistake yourself.
So what’s the best way to handle road rage? The NHTSA offers an Aggressive Driving Brochure with the following tips:
- Get Out of the Way. First and foremost make every attempt to get out of their way.
- Put Your Pride Aside. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own in your travel lane.
- Avoid Eye Contact. Eye contact can sometimes enrage an aggressive driver.
- Gestures. Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
- Report Serious Aggressive Driving. You or a passenger may call the police. But, if you use a cell phone, pull over to a safe location.
For more information on road rage and aggressive driving, visit the NHTSA website or safemotorist.com. Most importantly, don’t let irritation with other drivers turn into a road rage situation. Keep calm and drive on!