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Most drivers in the US consider aggressive driving to be a serious problem, according to the AAA Foundation and the National Safety Council. Many of these drivers acknowledge that, in addition to suffering the effects of other angry drivers, they have expressed aggression and anger at least once during the year. In fact, the study completed by the AAA Foundation showed that more than half of the fatal crashes between 2003 and 2007 involved at least one driver who had engaged in some type of aggressive behavior. As these behaviors become increasingly problematic, it’s important that you know how to protect yourself from suffering at the hands of an aggressive driver and from engaging in these behaviors yourself.

What It Is

The first step is to understand what constitutes aggressive driving; this is basically any driving behavior that creates unsafe driving situations, whether intentionally or not. Some examples include speeding when traffic is heavy, tailgating, cutting in front of a car and then slowing down, weaving through traffic, changing lanes without using a signal, running red lights and blocking other drivers when they try to pass or change lanes. The use of headlights to annoy other drivers is also considered aggressive driving. Road rage is an extreme form that may include the use of obscene or rude gestures or words. Enraged drivers may throw items, ram other vehicles, side swipe other cars or force another driver off the road.

Drive Defensively

One of the best things you can do to avoid trouble with other drivers is to recognize that they are probably not thinking about you, but are feeling rushed, upset or distracted. Staying calm when other drivers are upset, may help you to keep the situation under control. Pay attention to the accepted rules of the road, such as staying a responsible distance behind other drivers, using your turn signal, allowing other drivers to merge, avoiding the use of your horn and using your “brights” or high beams appropriately.

Stay Safe

When other drivers around you are upset, you can decrease the risks of unpleasant confrontations by avoiding eye contact with the other driver and resist the urge to respond aggressively. If you believe that you may be in danger, find a public place, such as a police station, fire station or hospital, and park. Lock your doors and remain in your vehicle. You might honk your horn to attract attention or call 911 if the other driver is behaving threateningly.

Remain Calm

What can you do if you’re the one feeling upset by others’ driving habits? One of the most effective things you can do is to give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. When another driver cuts you off or moves into your space, imagine scenarios that might excuse their behavior. For example, maybe the driver is heading to the hospital for the birth of a child or perhaps they have a loved one who has just experienced a traumatic injury. Remember the consequences of aggressive driving. Some sobering statistics may help:

  • 66% of traffic fatalities involve aggressive driving behaviors
  • 50% of people exposed to aggressive driving respond the same way
  • 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm

Decide Now to Avoid Aggressive Driving

Ultimately, you’ll want to do your best not to offend other drivers on the road. Forcing another driver to change their speed or direction could lead to unwanted behaviors. Assume that drivers who are acting aggressively or upset are having a bad day. It’s possible that they could have lost their job, just walked away from a fight with their significant others or got a call to meet their loved one at the hospital. If you are able to maintain a tolerant or forgiving attitude, you may find that it is easier to avoid becoming aggressive yourself. Finally, avoid making eye contact, using hand gestures and crowding other drivers.

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