Aggressive driving causes approximately two thirds of all fatalities on U.S. highways. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research also links a full 94% of motor vehicle accidents to driver error. Motor vehicle accidents rank number one among all accidental deaths in the United States. Highway experts believe many of those deaths could be prevented if drivers resisted the urge to drive aggressively.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that aggressive driving causes approximately 1,500 deaths or injuries in U.S. traffic accidents each year. The AAA study reports that nine out of every ten drivers believe their personal safety is at risk when they encounter aggressive drivers.
Aggressive driving represents a growing danger, often reported by other drivers, people who fear for their own safety.
Aggressive Driving-What Goes Around Comes Around
Most drivers reluctantly admit to aggressive driving from time to time. People like to believe that they drive safely. But those beliefs fade under closer scrutiny. The AAA Foundation for Safety reports that 8 million U.S. drivers admit to road rage or aggressive driving at one time. 80% of drivers encountered aggression or extreme anger while driving at least once in the last year.
NHTSA researchers found that 50% of drivers who reported being victims of aggressive drivers admitted that they themselves have engaged in aggressive driving. The AAA Foundation study exposed this double standard. Ironically, drivers who sometimes drive aggressively get frustrated when they themselves encounter others who drive aggressively.
Specifically what is aggressive driving? Annoying actions making up aggressive driving overall include:
- Flashing headlights at cars ahead
- Repeated horn honking
- Offensive hand gesturing
- Increasing speed as others attempt to pass
- Chasing other drivers
- Passing on the right
- Speeding up through changing traffic lights
- Slamming on brakes to force other drivers to stop, sometimes called “brake checking”
- Pulling over to confront other drivers
- Blocking others from lane changes
- Cutting off other cars
- Bumping into or ramming other vehicles
What Aggravates Aggressive Drivers?
Aggressive driving often happens when drivers are in a hurry. Late for a meeting or facing some other time constraint, rushing drivers tend to tailgate or weave between lanes of traffic.
Victims of the tailgating often become angry and make erratic, unsafe decisions that typically make the situation more dangerous. Traffic, construction, and congestion due to accidents frustrate drivers and make them more susceptible to aggressive driving.
Drivers who cause others to drive aggressively often:
- Change lanes without turn signals
- Block passing lanes and right turning lanes
- Engage in distracted driving
- “Police” other vehicles or attempt to trap other vehicles
- Cut off other drivers when failing to check mirrors and blind spots
- Fail to turn off high beams when approaching or passing other vehicles
- Drive below the speed limit
- Take up more than one parking space
The AAA study found 51% of drivers intentionally tailgate others and 47% yell at other drivers when frustrated.
Difference Between Aggressive Driving & Road Rage
Aggressive driving behavior often escalates into road rage. According to AAA’s study, 2% of all drivers who have engaged in road rage admit that during road rage they have attempted to run another driver off the road. The NHTSA defines road rage as:
“an act when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle of other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”.
Road Rage Definition: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Road rage outbursts are often due to other issues of stress in life. Actions on the roadway often set off the temper of the driver experiencing stress off the highway. Since you never know the other driver’s state of mind you can’t accurately predict another driver’s reactions or overreactions. That’s why usually minor every day traffic issues unfortunately can escalate into road rage.
How To Avoid Bad Drivers
The best bet in dealing with road rage involves leaving the aggressor plenty of room. As hard as it may be, move over and get out of the way as soon as possible. Avoid altercations. Do not stop the vehicle unnecessarily or use hand gestures. Do not make eye contact. Focus only upon moving on with your trip safely and reporting the driver if safety seems like a major concern. Avoid aggressive drivers and your drive will be more stress free.
Aggressive drivers become enraged drivers over the most seemingly minor things, and it is not uncommon for the aggressor to chase the other driver, confront the other driver, punch or cause other harm to the driver. In far too many instances road rage escalates even to shooting. The NHTSA reports that 37% of aggressive driving incidents involved a firearm. Due to the violence, road rage often results in criminal charges.
Serious Accidents Resulting from Road Rage
When aggressive driving or road rage causes an accident, some accidents can be deadly. In a fatal accident caused by purposeful negligent and reckless driving, the aggressor may be charged with vehicular manslaughter and the family may be eligible for a wrongful death claim. More about wrongful death here.
Contrast road rage with aggressive driving, which often results in a moving violation which does carry consequences including hefty fines and increased insurance rates. That’s if police stop the driver before an accident. Where aggressive driving causes an accident, consequences can include property damage, severe personal injury and even death. Heightened penalties and civil lawsuits seeking damage result, not no mention a lengthy loss of the aggressive driver’s license.
Aggressive Driving: Bad Habit, Expensive & Deadly
Aggressive drivers put all other drivers at risk. They also breach their legal duty to drive safely, with due care under all of the circumstances. All that the rest of us can do is try to stay out of their way and drive defensively. Driving defensively actually involves a number of specific practices that can reduce the likelihood of accidents.
On the other hand, if you know you have a tendency to drive aggressively despite your best efforts to control it aggressive driving courses are available. Such courses teach conflict avoidance through techniques like role playing, behavior adjustment and more. Getting help with aggressive behavior could prevent future injuries and may save lives.
If you have been injured by an aggressive driver or road rage, a personal injury attorney can represent you in pursuing your claim against the other driver and their insurance company. An experienced personal injury attorney can gather evidence of aggressive driving on the part of the other motorist in order to help you hold the other driver accountable. Call my office for an initial free consultation. My office has pursued motor vehicle accident and other negligence cases for over 25 years.
Photo Credit: Angry Driver by John Greenfield on flickr under license with Creative Commons.
Nearly 80 Percent of Drivers Express Significant Anger, Aggression or Road Rage, AAA Newsroom, July 2016.
Aggressive Driving & Road Rage, C. Zalaquett & H. Thornton, coedu.usf.edu.
Aggressive Driving Enforcement, NHTSA, March 2004.