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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."

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.

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.

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:

To find out if you might exhibit aggressive driving behavior, complete this short quiz from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:


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