According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, aggressive driving tendencies are rising in the United States. That’s a troublesome reality, since the resultant road rage accounts for numerous traffic accidents and deaths.
We can all play a role in curbing this phenomenon by resisting aggression and reacting appropriately to others’ foul-ups. A premise worth repeating: You can’t control other drivers, but you can control your reactions to what they do.
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” sum up the reasons that jurisdictions around the country are stepping up efforts to identify, cite and prosecute aggressive drivers. In fact, the Washington State Patrol is a leader in this regard.
A worthy statement by WSP Chief John Batiste noted, “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.”
Some questions to help evaluate your aggressive driving tendency: 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? Such behaviors are early warning signs indicating that you may be on the path to a road rage incident.
There are plenty of other driver actions that depict aggressive behaviors: 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. These habits not only rile other drivers, but are exactly what law officers look for when ticketing aggressive behavior.
These tips offer a guideline for enhancing everyone’s roadway safety:
• Allow plenty of time for your trip, play soothing music, improve the comfort in your vehicle. Practice patience — avoid impatience and personal anger.
• Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver is not. If another driver challenges you, move out of their way. Never underestimate the other driver’s capacity for mayhem.
• When entering traffic or changing lanes, make sure that you have enough room.
• Establish and maintain a safe following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
• Don’t make aggressive hand gestures to the other drivers when they offend you with their driving.
• Signal when turning or changing lanes.
• Avoid prolonged eye contact with an angry driver.
• If you sense you are in danger, call police on your cell phone (legal excerption for emergency use) or go to a 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 reaction to that frustration and quell any escalation of your 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.