The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that aggressive driving is still in the growth phase on American roadways. That’s a sad report, due to aggression’s resultant road rage, wrecks and death.
Do your part to curb this phenomenon by resisting your own aggression, and reacting appropriately to the belligerence of others. An important mantra: You can’t control other drivers, but you can control your reactions to their actions.
The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as, “The commission of two or more moving violations that is likely to endanger other persons or property, or any single intentional violation that requires a defensive reaction of another driver.” And road rage as, “An assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of one motor vehicle on the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle caused by an incident that occurred on a roadway.”
The words “endanger” and “dangerous” infer reasons that jurisdictions around the country are stepping up efforts to identify, cite and prosecute offenders. In fact, the Washington State Patrol is a leader in this effort having produced a publication, “Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks in Washington State,” that is featured on the NHTSA Website.
Besides creating the publication, which is a model used by other law enforcement agencies, the WSP has taken practical action. Quoting WSP Chief John R. Batiste, “The preventable individual driving behaviors and decisions made by aggressive drivers can lead to loss of life and life-threatening injuries to our friends, family, and children. Our goal is to change these behaviors and outcomes through enforcement, education, and assistance.”
Here are some questions to help evaluate your aggressive driving potential: Do you mentally condemn or have thoughts of violence toward other drivers? Do you verbally express condemnation of other drivers to passengers in your vehicle? Do you disobey traffic rules because you disagree with them? They are early warning signs indicating that you may be on the path to a road rage incident.
There are also a host of driver actions that depict aggression: Tailgating, speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding up to beat a traffic light, using the horn excessively, or braking to get others to back off. Cease such behavior if you’re prone to it, as it riles other drivers and is exactly what the WSP looks for when ticketing aggressive behavior.
Tips to avoid aggression and rage: Allow plenty of time for the trip, listen to soothing music and be comfortable in your vehicle. Practice patience; avoid impatience and personal anger. Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver is not, avoiding conflict if possible — never underestimate another driver’s capacity for mayhem. Establish a safe following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Don't make angry hand gestures to the other drivers. Use signals when turning or changing lanes. Avoid prolonged eye contact with the bad or angry driver. Get help by calling 911 on your cell phone or seeking a public place — don’t pull to the side of the road.
It’s easy and natural to become upset with other drivers on the roadway — I certainly do! The key is to control your eventual reaction to that frustration, and quell any escalation of such agitation. Call 911 to report purveyors of road rage; you’ll be connected to the WSP or another appropriate law enforcement agency.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.