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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Aggressive driving can escalate

Don’t let driving aggression lead to raging anger — the latter can especially spiral out of control during this Covid19 pandemic. We are rightfully frustrated right now, but resorting to driving aggression and the resultant road rage while “protected” within our vehicles is problematic.

You can’t control other drivers’ aggression, but you can and should regulate your own. 

The relative anonymity and isolation enjoyed by drivers behind the wheel regularly spawn aggression toward others sharing the roadway.  When combined with perceived time issues, some drivers tend to mentally condemn other drivers, verbally abuse them, or even react physically with fits of rage.

Real or imagined unfair treatment from fellow drivers can affect anyone adversely.  How you deal with drivers who tailgate or cut you off makes a big difference.

Seemingly innocuous mental or verbal condemnation is a first step of undue aggression — it represents an attitude that sometimes leads to chasing other drivers, threatening them or worse.

When I encounter drivers making errors or being thoughtless, careless or reckless, I try to figure out why they may be driving that way.  For example, if a driver is constantly weaving I may surmise that he or she is drunk or medically compromised.  Or if a driver pulls out in front of me and goes slowly, I may guess that they are elderly.  When a driver races through a residential area at 50 mph, I might conclude that he or she may be young and foolish.

While road rage is the most severe manifestation of driver aggression, many other common behaviors qualify as aggressive.  Racing, tailgating, failing to heed signage or road rules, and seeking confrontation of any kind are examples.

Speeding is the most common form of aggressive driving and is a factor in about one-third of all accidents.  Continuous lane changing on the freeway is a product of speeding and one way that police officers detect excess speed.  I can assure you from riding with Washington State Patrol Troopers that they watch for that telltale sign (constant lane changing) indicating drivers who are operating their vehicles at a speed greater than the average flow of traffic.

AAA designed a quiz to assess your anger issues with other drivers.  It asks whether you get angry at them never, sometimes, often or always.  Nine other questions determine how often you get angry when drivers drive too fast, drive too slow, cut you off, or tailgate.  If you answer “sometimes” to those questions, be aware of your potential aggression; if you answer “often” or “always,” strive to change your outlook.

Besides attitudes toward other drivers, the quiz asks if you react with anger over other driving tribulations such as:  untimely stoplights, traffic jams, or road construction.  It even questions if you are ever told to calm down by passengers.

 Anger clouds one’s ability to think rationally — when it intensifies, dire consequences often result.  Driving your vehicle properly and interacting with others safely requires a calm, level-headed demeanor.  If you are angry, that’s not possible.

The Washington State Patrol 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.”

Avoid aggression when driving and don’t interact with angry drivers — if confronted, keep driving, avoid contact, don’t retaliate — stay calm.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at