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Aggressive Driving

The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as occurring when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." http://www.nhtsa.gov/Aggressive

It is distinct from road rage, which is a criminal offense, and refers to a driver/passenger using their vehicle or other weapon to assault another driver/passenger, or to an assault following a traffic incident. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/enforce/aggressdrivers/aggenforce/define.html

For example, while there is no separate aggressive driving law in California, there are both criminal and licensing sanctions against drivers who commit road rage. http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/enforce/speedlaws501/summtable_aggressive.htm

There is certainly overlap between the two, and the following risky behaviors have been linked to these dangerous practices:

  • Speeding or failing to observe the speed limit;
  • running red lights and stop signs;
  • tailgating and generally failing to observe safe distance from other cars;
  • improper or unsafe lane use, like erratic weaving in and out of traffic, cutting off other drivers, failing to signal that you are about to make a maneuver; blocking the passing (far left) lane;
  • seeking confrontation – for example, venting frustration on other drivers, making rude or obscene gestures, honking the horn at the slightest provocation or delay, using high beams to make a point;
  • improper parking, like: taking up two spaces, tapping other cars as you park, or failing to leave enough space for the other driver to enter his/her car;
  • any of the above behaviors, caused by distracted, inattentive driving.

In order to prevent aggressive driving:

  • Minimize stress and fatigue, be aware of how you feel, and don’t succumb to frustration or rage;
  • give other drivers the benefit of the doubt, and do not assume errors were intentional;
  • plan ahead, leave earlier to avoid congestion and delays, or, if all else fails, accept you will be late;
  • focus on your driving and avoid behaviors that might frustrate other drivers.

If another driver exhibits aggressive behavior:

  • Avoid confrontation, and avoid eye contact;
  • do not stop or pull over, and do your best to get out of their way;
  • if stopped in traffic , leave enough space between yours and the car ahead to pull out as needed;
  • if pursued, call 911 or drive to the nearest police station or public space;
  • keep doors locked;
  • stay calm and focused.

Practice and promote with those around you defensive driving practices, and help make roads safer for everyone. Keep in mind that driving is primarily a responsibility. This handy brochure from the NHTSA includes a fact sheet on aggressive driving: http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/aggressive/Aggressive%20Web/brochure.html

To find out if you might exhibit aggressive driving behavior, complete this short quiz from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: https://www.aaafoundation.org/are-you-aggressive-driver

 

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