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Behaviors of Aggressive Driving

 

Motorists would be well advised to keep their cool in traffic, to be patient and courteous to other drivers, and to correct unsafe driving habits that are likely to endanger, infuriate, or antagonize other motorists. Be aware of the behaviors that have resulted in violence in the past:

Lane blocking 

Don't block the passing lane. Stay out of the far left lane and yield to the right for any vehicle that wants to overtake you. If someone demands to pass, allow them to do so. 

Tailgating 

Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Dozens of deadly traffic altercations began when one driver tailgated another.

Signal use 

Don't switch lanes without first signaling your intention, and make sure you don't cut someone off when you move over. After you've made the maneuver, turn your signal off. 

Gestures 

You are taking a big risk if you raise a middle finger to another driver. Obscene gestures have gotten people shot, stabbed, or beaten. 

Horn use 

Don't blow your horn at the driver in front of you the second the light turns green. If a stressed-out motorist is on edge, the noise may set him off. Scores of violence has begun with a driver honking the horn. 

Parking 

Do not take more than one parking space and do not park in a handicapped parking space if you are not handicapped. Don't allow your door to strike an adjacent parked vehicle. When parallel parking, do not tap the other vehicles with your own. Always look before backing up. 

Headlight use 

Keep headlights on low beam, except where unlighted conditions require the use of high beams. Dim your lights for oncoming traffic; don't retaliate to oncoming high beams with your own in order to "teach them a lesson." Don't approach a vehicle from the rear with high beams and dim your lights as soon as a passing vehicle is alongside. 

Blocking traffic 

If you are pulling a trailer or driving a cumbersome vehicle that impedes traffic behind you, pull over when you have the opportunity so that motorists behind you can pass. Also, do not block the road while talking to a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Dozens of shooting suggest that this behavior irritates a lot of people. 

Eye Contact 

If a hostile motorist tries to pick a fight, do not make eye contact. This can be seen as a challenging gesture and incite the other driver to violence. Instead, get out of the way but do not acknowledge the other driver. If a motorist pursues you, do not go home. Instead, drive to a police station, convenience store, or other location where you can get help. 

Helpful Tips 

Reduce Your Own Stress 

Traffic stress -- indeed, anger in general -- is hazardous to your health. The stress from road congestion is a major contributing factor to violent traffic disputes. Making a few simple changes in the way you approach driving can significantly reduce your stress level in the car. 

Consider altering your schedule to avoid the worst congestion. Allow plenty of time so that you do not have to speed or become anxious. Think -- is it really the end of the world if you are a bit late? Could you plan your day so you could leave a little earlier? 

While in traffic, concentrate on being relaxed. Don't clench your teeth. Loosen your grip on the wheel, and take a deep breath. 

Don't drive when you are angry, upset, or overtired. 

Most importantly, understand that you can't control the traffic but you can control your reaction to it. 

Adjust Your Attitude Give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Assume that other drivers' mistakes are not intentional and are not personal. Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn't; it's better to err on the side of caution. 

Before reacting to another Drivers mistake, ask yourself, "How many times have I made the same mistake?" Before initiating or responding violently to a traffic situation, ask yourself, "Is it worth being paralyzed or killed? Is it worth the time and money for a lawsuit? Is it worth a jail sentence?" Remember, split-second impulsive actions can ruin the rest of your life. 

Avoid all conflict if possible. If you are challenged, take a deep breath and get out of the way, even if you are right. Instead, try being more forgiving and tolerant. Recognize the absurdity of traffic disputes and focus on what is really important in life. You cannot fight every battle. Save your energy -- and your life -- for something worthwhile. 

Road Rage

"Road Rage" is a term that is believed to have originated in the United States. In its broadest sense it can refer to any display of aggression by a driver. However, the term is often used to refer to the more extreme acts of aggression, such as a physical assault, that occur as a direct result of a disagreement between drivers. 

The response to a stressful situation may often be anger. When we are confronted by a frustrating situation we often resort to aggression. This is often no more than verbal abuse. However, there are circumstances in which we may resort to physical violence. In the late 1980s, drivers in the United States, apparently frustrated by increasing congestion, began fighting and shooting each other on a regular basis, victims of what the popular press termed "road rage." There is nothing to suggest that road rage is distinct from any other form of anger. But for many of us driving has become one of the most frustrating activities we are regularly engaged in. In the United States, unverified figures of up to 1,200 road rage-related deaths a year have been reported. 

Aggressive tailgating (62 percent) was the most common form of "road rage," followed by headlight flashing (59 percent), obscene gestures (48 percent), deliberately obstructing other vehicles (21 percent) and verbal abuse (16 percent). One percent of drivers claim to have been physically assaulted by other motorists. 

Although 62 percent of drivers were victimized by aggressive tailgaters, only 6 percent admitted to doing it themselves. Gender differences were not as great as expected; 54 percent of women admitted to aggressive driving behavior, compared with 64 percent of men. 

What Causes "Road Rage"? 

In some cases it appears that incidents of road rage are caused by simple misunderstandings between drivers. A driver may make a momentary error of judgment but the perception of another is that he is driving aggressively. 

It is likely that the cause of the road rage extends beyond the immediate incident. An individual may have had a bad day at work or troubles at home. Often it may be difficult to tackle the cause of the frustration. It may therefore lie dormant, indeed the driver may not even identify feelings of frustration. However, failure to indicate or a poor maneuver by another driver may be enough to trigger a release of the pent-up frustration which is directed towards the offending driver. 

Increasing levels of congestion on the roads have undoubtedly played a role in raising tempers among drivers and may partly explain why the majority of motorists feel that the behavior of drivers has changed for the worst in recent years. 

Conflicts between drivers have also arisen because of unclear road priorities -- where drivers have disagreed as to who has right of way, for example. In many cases the road priorities were determined at a time when the level of congestion and speed of traffic were considerably less than today. 

Other drivers' failure to adhere to the rules of the road and ignoring signs, e.g., where lanes merge or a lane is closed and drivers merge into the open lane at the last possible opportunity, is a commonly quoted cause of irritation among drivers. 

How to Avoid Succumbing to Road Rage 

Be aware of the precursors. Avoid stress and fatigue. In particular, try to disassociate yourself from problems that have no bearing on the journey. br>
Never assume that an apparently aggressive act was intended as such. We all make mistakes. So don't bite back. If we take an example from studies of animal behavior in the wild, the dominant animal in a group will rarely get involved in petty fights and disagreements. Although confident in his ability to defeat any opponent, there is always the risk of injury. 

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim 

Majority of people have not found that the road rage incidents have affected their confidence to drive. It must be stressed that the chances of any driver becoming the victim of a violent road rage attack are very small. The risks of driving alone can be exaggerated -- be sensible about your safety but don't be afraid to drive on your own. However, if you feel threatened by another motorist, the following gives advice on how to defuse the situation or protect yourself: 
 

  • If you're being hassled by another driver, try not to react. Put your pride in the back seat. Avoid making eye contact, as this is often seen as confrontational. Don't be tempted to accelerate, brake, or swerve suddenly; again, this may be seen as confrontational and increases your chances of losing control of your vehicle. 
  • 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. 
  • In town, lock the car doors and keep the windows and sunroof only partly open. 
  • When stopped in traffic, leave enough space to pull out from behind the car you are following. 
  • If someone tries to get into your car, attract attention by sounding your horn or a personal alarm. 
  • Do not be tempted to start a fight and do not be tempted to carry any sort of weapon. 

General Advice for Reducing Stress and Fatigue on the Road 

Before starting a journey, make sure that you know how to get to your destination and, if possible, have an alternate route in mind. Think about the timing of the journey. 

Make sure your car is regularly serviced and carry out routine checks (tire pressure, oil, water, etc.) regularly. Carry spare items (bulbs, fan belt, emergency sign for the windshield, etc.). Also, make sure your windshield is clean, particularly before a long journey. Peering through a dirty windshield is a common source of stress and fatigue when driving. Also, have a window cloth, de-icer, and sunglasses accessible. Make sure that you are comfortable before starting the journey. Adjust your seat and mirrors. You should also ensure that your seat belt and head restraint are correctly positioned, if they are adjustable. 

Too often we have unreasonable expectations of journey times. Take journeys in easy stages and never remain behind the wheel of a car for more than three hours without a break. Don't try to cover more than 300 miles a day and, on a long trip, be careful on the second day of driving -- this is when you tend to be most vulnerable to fatigue. 

When you take a break, make sure that you get out of the car and stretch your legs. Eat a light snack but avoid heavy meals, particularly at lunchtime. Try to avoid eating in noisy, crowded places. 

The likelihood of getting stressed while driving is largely dependent on your attitude of mind before you even turn the key in the ignition. Wind down before you crank up. Try to take one or two minutes to concentrate your mind on the task at hand and try to forget about other problems when driving. 

Anticipate situations that are likely to wind you up and be tolerant of other road users' errors. If you find yourself in congestion, try to accept that there is probably very little that you could have done or can do to prevent the delay. 

Take remedial action before stress and fatigue get the better of you. Learn to spot the warning signs and develop positive coping strategies, such as listening to music. 

Wind down the windows to increase ventilation and consciously breathe in the air slowly. Also, don't grip the steering wheel too hard as this will tense arm and neck muscles, leading to fatigue symptoms such as headaches.