Imagine driving down a highway, going with the flow of traffic, when a glance in the rearview mirror shows a car approaching from behind very quickly. The person pulls up, is riding your bumper, and flashes the car’s headlights. You continue driving in your lane. The driver then pulls over into the next lane, swings around you, cuts you off, and speeds away. Of course, this is after using a particular gesture to indicate the driver’s displeasure. You have just had the “joy” of experiencing aggressive driving firsthand. (Pun intended)
Drive for any length of time, and you will see someone driving aggressively by:
- Changing lanes frequently or erratically
- Running a red light, or always trying to ‘beat the yellow,’ and/or
- Racing down the road faster than the posted speed limit.
Aggressive driving is defined as a combination of moving traffic offenses that endanger other individuals or property.
We know that aggressive driving is dangerous. It is also something that can be easily stopped, or easily turned into an explosive situation, such as road rage. The difference between aggressive driving and road rage is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation; road rage is a crime whereby the offender commits an assault using a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon while on the road.
There is no question that as human beings at some point we will all get mad or frustrated about someone driving too slowly, or being cut off by another driver or being in a traffic jam because of weather or a crash. However, it is at this point that we need to take a deep breath, and ultimately, ‘take a chill pill.’ While the trigger can be something minor, it can have immense consequences. Taking a chill pill can start before leaving home. For example, if you have to be somewhere at a specific time, try to give yourself extra time to get there. If running late is unavoidable, keep in mind “better late than never.” We all need to remember that there are other drivers on the road and how each of us acts can have an impact on someone else’s safety.
Additional tips to keep your cool include:
- Don’t become distracted by talking on a cell phone, eating, or drinking
- Listen to music you enjoy
- Travel at or about the speed limit
- Know alternative routes that on paper may appear to take longer but may actually be quicker because of traffic congestion
- Use public transportation, or ride in a car pool, and let someone else drive.
The idea is to not take out your frustrations on the other driver; we don’t have any control over that person. But we can control our own actions.
5 Tips to Being the Sane Person
When confronted with an aggressive driver, these five tips may help save your life:
- Move over or get out of the way. In the example above, when the car comes up from behind quickly and the driver flashes the car’s headlights, move over, if you can do so safely. It is not worth the risk; stay out of the way of the other person, because not doing so is a fast way to escalate it to road rage.
- Avoid eye contact. Eye contact can be seen as challenging to the other driver and enrage him or her.
- Don’t respond with any gestures. Just like eye contact, it can be seen as being a challenge.
- Put your pride aside. Driving down the road is no place to challenge someone. The result can be deadly.
- Steer clear and give angry drivers plenty of room. As Dr. William Glasser, noted international psychiatrist, said: “ “You never know if the man or woman next to you might be crazy.”
If you see aggressive driving or are a victim of it, please report it to the police. But if you are making the call from your cell phone, pull over first and then call the police.
The bottom line for all of this is to remember that driving is not a competition sport, (unless you’re on a race track). It is ultimately about arriving safely. Safe driving is making sure you use defensive driving tactics so you and whoever is riding with you arrive in one piece. Staying safe in a crazy world is remembering you have a responsibility towards yourself and others, and you need to keep control over your actions.
How about you? Have you seen someone drive aggressively?