In the 1980s and before, most people enjoyed driving. Owning a car was a privilege that not everyone could afford. Your vehicle was a part of you, and you treated it as such.
The people and the cars around you seemed to respect one another. It was a safer time to be a driver. Vehicles were cared for deeply, and America took pride in the way they were driven.
In the early 1990s, the term “aggressive driving” came to the forefront of traffic safety concerns. The world got itself in a hurry. No longer did vehicles brake to let people in or slow down for yellow lights. People forgot how to respect the road and those who share it. This is not to say that aggressive driving did not exist until the 1990s; it most likely has existed since the onset of motor vehicle travel, but it did not become an overwhelming issue until then.
Today, aggressive driving is the most significant issue on the roads. According to the AAA, 51% of drivers purposely tailgated last year. That’s over 100 million drivers going out of their way to drive aggressively.
American drivers are worse than they have ever been, and the statistics are overwhelming. Other behaviors such as yelling at drivers, honking out of spite, making obscene gestures, blocking vehicles from changing lanes, speeding, and cutting people off have also set record numbers.
The leading cause of the rise in anger and aggression can be attributed to the number of drivers on the road. Every year, there are more people on the road than the previous. In 2018, there were 228 million drivers in the nation. In 1990, there were 167 million drivers. In under 30 years, there was an increase of 61 million drivers.
Congestion of roadways is obviously a huge factor, but the NHTSA says 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving. The statistics are alarmingly high, but still, every day, people continue to drive aggressively.
To help you combat that issue, here are the most common behaviors aggressive drivers exhibit and how to avoid them.
Speeding is the most noticeable aggressive driving behavior. It is involved with nearly a third of all motor vehicle fatalities. Speed limits around the country vary; the majority of interstates have 75-80 mph limits, while most roads have 45-55 mph limits. The overall speed limits of roads have gotten far higher in the past decades. Some believe this to be the main factor in the increase in speeders. However, even if the speed limits did decrease, people’s behavior most likely would not.
Speeding is the most common form of aggressive driving, and it can be seen every time you get in your vehicle. Traffic congestion is an apparent contributor to the issue; admittedly, going 15 mph in stop and go traffic for an hour is frustrating, but that is the price we pay for the number of drivers on the road. It is also not a good reason to drive erratically.
Some drivers speed because they are “late” for something, which happens far too often in traffic. To combat the issue, leave earlier for work and try to listen to music or a podcast that you enjoy. Changing your mindset in the vehicle will help you relax and go the speed limit.
Another typical aggressive driving behavior that usually stems from traffic is tailgating. Tailgating is when someone is extremely close to the rear of your vehicle. Aggressive drivers do this to “push” the driver ahead of them into changing lanes or speeding up.
It is a dangerous habit that can result in a severe auto accident. The following distance between vehicles should always be at least a car length. The higher speed you go, the farther back you should stay from the driver in front of you.
Far too often, people tailgate because they believe they will get to where they need to be faster. Usually, this is not the case at all, and you’re only making the people around you angry. The Insurance Information Institute says it takes a vehicle traveling at 60 mph a minimum of 240 feet to come to a safe stop. Many variables make this change, but if you’re tailgating a driver that needs to stop suddenly, you will not have the reaction time to stop.
To avoid tailgaters, simply let them pass you. It is not worth the accident or the headache of dealing with angry people.
Sudden Lane Changing
Arguably, abrupt lane changing is the most dangerous form of aggressive driving. This is true because it involves multiple hostile behaviors. A person who is suddenly switching lanes and weaving in-and-out of traffic are usually also speeding and tailgating drivers. The combination of these behaviors is a deadly mix.
The danger with sudden lane changing is the cars around you who may also be changing lanes. At any point, a sideswipe collision could occur when someone is weaving through traffic. Slowing down and letting these aggressive drivers pass you is the best way to avoid them. Responding to them is the opposite of what you want to do. There is no need to risk your life to prove a point.
In 2017, 890 people were killed in crashes that involved aggressive drivers running red lights.
Often, those fatalities are pedestrians and drivers who are stopped in traffic. Red-light cameras have put a dent in the number of people who are willing to run lights, but the problem still exists. The issue, again, stems from drivers being in a hurry. Before you get behind the wheel and drive recklessly to get somewhere on time, think of the people (and their families) around you who may be harmed due to your careless actions.
If you know you’re going to be late, give your job/meeting/event a heads-up. Leaving earlier to get to where you need to be is the easiest way to avoid being in a rush.
Blocking is much less severe than any other form of aggressive driving. It usually doesn’t involve any other dangerous behaviors, which makes it less frequent to cause severe accidents. Yet still, it is not safe driving practice. Blocking people from getting into traffic, changing lanes, or exiting off interstates will only create more problems. Letting a car in here and there will not make you late to where you need to be. Be kind and let people in, even if they aren’t the best drivers.
A Petition to Calm Down
A simple way to combat aggressive driving is by taking a breath and calming yourself down. Anger is an emotion that everyone experiences; some just handle it in better ways. Life can be demanding at times, but taking anger out on other drivers is not the answer. Sometimes the best thing to do is release it before you get on the road.
We’ve established that being in a rush will result in something dangerous. Know that traffic is going to happen, especially if you live in a large metro area. Don’t let the things around you affect the safety of your driving. Next time you feel yourself getting angry on the road, turn on your favorite song, and take a few breaths. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, and you’ll get to where you need to be safe and sound.