Many people probably have a similar picture of an aggressive driver. It’s that guy who cut you off with an unfriendly gesture in his rearview mirror or that woman who tailgated you until you moved aside and then honked in anger as she passed. You might even picture an incident of outright road rage where a driver gets so angry at another driver that he shouts obscenities or even pulls out a weapon. While these scary incidents do happen every day, they are not the only behaviors that are considered to be aggressive driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving occurs when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." By this definition, we may all be guilty of driving aggressively from time to time.
Actions That Are Considered Aggressive
According to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report, over half of all traffic fatalities are caused by some form of aggressive driving. The most common aggressive driving behavior is speeding. While you may not think that breaking the speed limit means you are driving with aggression, experts disagree. Speeding is a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes. Speeding clearly endangers other persons and is therefore considered aggressive. Other actions that fall into this category include the following:
- Following too closely
- Unsafe lane changes
- Driving on the shoulder, sidewalk, or median to avoid traffic
- Passing in a no-passing zone
- Driving recklessly or carelessly
- Suddenly changing speeds
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to obey traffic regulations
- Failure to signal
- Driving too fast for conditions
- Making an improper turn
The key to remember is that a driver does not have to feel anger or aggression in order to drive aggressively and endanger others.
Lack of Driving Awareness Adds to the Dangerous Driving Conditions
The AAA study on aggressive driving found that a majority of survey respondents believe that aggressive driving is a serious or extremely serious traffic safety problem, yet admit to committing aggressive driving actions, such as exceeding the speed limit by more than 15 mph, accelerating to beat a traffic light, or pressuring other drivers to speed up. It is this disconnect between common driver actions and the danger they cause that contributes to the problem of aggressive driving. Drivers must make safer driving decisions in order to reduce the rates of traffic fatalities.
Indiana Safe Driving Reminders
Even experienced drivers with clean records need an occasional reminder of safe driving habits. Crashes can happen without warning, but by making sure you are not breaking traffic laws and are focused on driving, you can protect yourself and others on the road. Remember to always do the following:
- Avoid distractions. Even using hands-free devices while driving is distracting enough to cause an accident. Eating, grooming, and conversing with passengers are also major driving distractions. Driving is not “downtime” to take care of other tasks. Your sole focus should be driving.
- Do not speed. Breaking the speed limit or driving too fast for weather or road conditions are so common that many of us don’t even see them as dangerous. However, statistics show that speeding causes more crashes than any other single factor.
- Obey all signs and directions. Along with speed limit signs, be alert to other signs and directions so that you are prepared for merges, traffic pattern changes, construction zones, bends in the road, and other hazards that could take you by surprise.
- Know when you shouldn’t drive. Even a couple of drinks at dinner can impair your driving ability. Prescription or over-the-counter medications that cause drowsiness or an altered mental state should also keep you from driving. If you are dozing off at work or yawning excessively, you are probably too drowsy to drive. Prepare for long drives with adequate sleep and take frequent breaks.
- Always wear a seatbelt. When someone else makes a mistake and you are involved in a crash, the only thing you can do to protect yourself is to wear your seatbelt 100 percent of the time.