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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Opinion >  Editorial

Editorial: Road rage is just as unacceptable as drunken driving

You’re walking down a busy sidewalk. You approach a slower walker. Do you:

A) Tell them to speed up?

B) Walk uncomfortably close behind them?

C) Yell or flip them off as you pass by?

D) Pass them without incident.

It’s D, right? So, let’s try the same scenario, but now you’re driving a car on a busy street.

You’re far more likely to turn aggressive behind the wheel. You’ll honk, tailgate and gesture angrily. Being somewhat removed from personal contact changes the dynamic, not unlike people who are less civil online or over the phone than they are in person.

Few people ever engage in sidewalk rage, but nearly 80 percent of U.S. drivers admit to at least one incident of road rage a year, according to a survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The survey was released July 14; the questions were posed in 2014, according to the Associated Press.

This aggression manifests itself in cutting off other drivers, blocking them from changing lanes, tailgating, ramming, screaming, gesturing obscenely, etc.

Unsurprisingly, testosterone is implicated, with male drivers ages 19 to 39 to be the most likely culprits. Male drivers in general are three times more likely to ram another car or get out in search of a fight. Insurance rates reflect this tendency to want to escalate the situation.

We are a society in a hurry, but road ragers should calm themselves just a second and think it over. Is it really the fault of other drivers that you’re running late? Just how much sooner will you get there at the speed you desire?

A recent legislative bid to increase the speed from 70 mph to 75 mph on Interstate 90 between western Spokane County and Ellensburg would’ve saved a driver less than 10 minutes.

The most common offense is tailgating, which is very dangerous. It can pressure another driver into a mistake or spark an act of retaliation.

Maybe that car ahead is being steered by an elderly person who shouldn’t be driving faster. Maybe it’s a young person just learning to drive. There could be many reasons that car isn’t traveling faster, but there’s rarely a reason to take it personally.

So, leave a little earlier or accept that you’re going to arrive a little later. It won’t kill you. But trying to remedy the situation just might.

In addition, your kids might be watching.

Do you want them to pick up dangerous habits?

Two-thirds of fatal car crashes are attributed to aggressive driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s about 23,000 fatalities out of a total of 35,000 last year.

That’s an astonishing number of avoidable deaths.

Drunken drivers don’t get much sympathy, because their offense is avoidable. Society should have the same attitude about driving angry.

It’s a choice, and a particularly dumb and dangerous one.

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