We’ve all been there; someone cuts you off in traffic, forcing you to slam on the brakes and, suddenly, you’re guilty of aggressive driving. It may start with an offensive hand gesture, a honk of the horn or catching up to the guy to return the favor. But by retaliating, you’ve just fallen victim to a problem that has brought about serious consequences on our roadways in recent years.
There’s even a definition for it as noted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). “Aggressive driving” is described as occurring when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” If that sounds familiar to you – because you’ve engaged in similar behavior – you may want to curb your emotions before something bad happens.
Okay, so how do you go about reducing aggressive driving when everyone else is doing it? Well, the main idea is to keep from becoming an aggressor as well as minimize the chance of escalating a simple driving incident into a full-blown dangerous situation.
While speeding is commonly blamed as one of the most significant contributors to the severity of crashes and ultimately traffic fatalities, it is not the only factor that leads to aggressive driving. In fact, the NHTSA lists three categories that contain unsafe acts that might constitute aggressive behavior.
1. Reckless driving
These dangerous violations usually deal with speeding, racing, driving drunk, and tailgating.
2. Dangerous driving
This behavior is typically defined as unnecessary risk taking, such as accelerating through a yellow light, taking greater risks when in a hurry, and cutting off other drivers.
3. Road Rage
Possibly the result of engaging in reckless or dangerous driving or being the victim of an act that involves the showing of hostility and anger to other drivers.
Researchers found that 82 percent of motorists surveyed stated that when behind the wheel, their mood was often affected by the actions of aggressive drivers.
Although you may not be able to control other drivers’ actions, below are several safety tips worth following to reduce potential aggressive driving on your part each time you get behind the wheel:
1. Always attempt to be friendly, calm, and courteous at all times. Surprisingly, it can lead other drivers to do the same.
2. Be aware. By recognizing the signs of aggressive driving, you’ll be able to keep from engaging in it. If you spot another driver doing it, avoid them by getting out of their way as quickly and safely as possible.
3. Try to anticipate, plan, and accept unexpected traffic delays. You’ll get there when you get there.
4. Keep your cool and don’t overreact to what may have been an inadvertent and innocent mistake by another driver.
5. Whatever you do, don’t respond to an aggressive motorist’s actions with angry hand gestures. It can only escalate into something much worse – road rage.
Like most behavioral changes, it is usually much easier said than done. But, if you practice maintaining a calmer attitude, staying within the speed limit, using your turn signals, and showing courtesy to your fellow drivers, you won’t fall into the trap of becoming, or provoking an aggressive driver.
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