If you have been driving for even a little while, it is likely that you have witnessed aggressive driving behavior. In fact, a large majority of the participants in a 2002 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey, reported feeling threatened by the aggressive behavior of another driver at least occasionally in the year prior to the survey.
To show you a glimpse of aggressive driving behavior, let’s pretend you are traveling down the highway on your way home from work. Driving in the fast lane, you notice in your rear view mirror, a sporty black car coming up fast. The driver is weaving in and out of traffic. You move out of the fast lane and he passes you. Traffic is packed and there is little room for the black car to move. Riding the bumper of the car that had been in front of you, he honks and gestures to get them to move. That driver finds a break in the traffic and complies. The aggressive driver speeds off continuing to weave his way in out of traffic until, soon, you no longer can see him. You breathe a sigh of relief and hope that everyone in his path stays safe.
Aggressive driving behavior doesn’t have to be this extreme to be a problem. While they probably won’t take their actions to the worse case scenario, a business person late for an appointment, or a mom driving a sick child to the hospital may, in their anxiousness to arrive to their destination, exhibit the typical aggressive driving maneuvers of speeding, tailgating, running red light and stop signs, improper passing and weaving in and out of traffic.
Since, seventy-eight percent of the respondents to a 2008 AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index Report, rated aggressive drivers a serious or extremely serious traffic safety issue, it is obvious that knowing how to handle this potentially dangerous situation would benefit you.
So, what are the best ways to handle an aggressive driver?
Keep your own safety in the forefront of your thoughts and act in ways that will keep that goal in mind.
1. The first step is to eliminate distractions (cell phone, eating etc.) in your own vehicle, so that you can fully attend to your driving.
2. Keep a watchful eye out for the behavior of the drivers around you. If you see someone driving aggressively, be wary of him.
3. As he approaches do what you can to safely move out of his way. Be prepared to safely take evasive action should the aggressive driver make sudden moves that affect the path of your vehicle. (Plus, take an extra second or two at stop lights or signs to ensure that the cross traffic is actually going to abide by the traffic laws. An aggressive driver may shoot into the intersection unexpectedly.)
4. Allow your ego to take a backseat to the whims of the aggressive driver. Maintaining your lane or otherwise challenging the aggressive driver could escalate the situation into a confrontation that could endanger your life or the lives of others. You do not know their situation and it is best to give them lee-way. His or her emotions may be running high and there is no benefit in adding fuel to their negative emotions.
5. Avoid direct eye contact with the aggressive driver.
6. No matter what gestures the driver does, ignore them and do not return the “favor”.
7. If you are stopped in traffic, make sure your doors are locked.
8. If an aggressive driver is following you, continue driving until you have reached a well-lit public place. Do not stop your vehicle or pull over until you are in a safer environment.
9. If you have a cellular phone with you and you feel threatened, call 911.
As always, all of us at Barker, Beck, Collins & Kronauge wish you safety in your travels.