You may be familiar with the term “aggressive driving,” but do you know what it means?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as occurring when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.” This definition differs from “road rage,” which is a criminal offense defined as “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on the roadway.”
While we tend to focus on vehicle speeds, all forms of aggressive driving threaten safety on our roadways. These behaviors lead to crashes, property damage, injuries and deaths. Whether you are late or frustrated with road congestion, aggressive driving is never worth the risk and endangers everyone.
Common Aggressive Driving Behaviors
Failure to Yield
You should always obey signs that instruct you to yield to other drivers and pedestrians. These signs are in place to keep everyone safe and other road users will be expecting you to follow them. Drivers with the right-of-way may not see you in time to brake and avoid you. Pedestrians might enter a crosswalk in anticipation of drivers stopping. If you don’t obey the signs, you could cause or contribute to a crash. Whether you’re entering a roundabout, waiting your turn to get on the highway or approaching a pedestrian crosswalk—always yield when the signs tell you to do so.
Some drivers feel using their turn signals is unnecessary, however this is extremely dangerous. Your turn signal is an important cue that helps other drivers anticipate what you’re about to do. If someone happens to be in your blind spot and you fail to signal a lane change, another motorist or pedestrian may not notice what you’re doing until it’s too late.
Making Extra, Unnecessary Lane Changes
Every lane change increases the chance of a crash, so it’s best to get into the lane you need to be in and stay there. Some aggressive drivers thrive on the feeling of weaving from lane to lane and passing other cars. Others can’t resist passing a driver going “only” the speed limit when they’re in a hurry. These actions put everyone at risk. You certainly will not get to your destination faster if you crash into another car.
Tailgating Other Drivers
Following the vehicle in front of you too closely will often contribute to bumper-to-bumper crashes. If the vehicle in front of you stops suddenly, you may not have enough time to react. It’s important to increase your following distance when traveling at higher speeds and when road conditions are unsafe. Anything that makes the roads wet, including wet leaves in the fall, can cause slick spots. If you can’t stop in time, you undoubtedly will crash into the car in front of you.
Making Sudden Stops, Starts, or Turns
Any sudden speed or direction changes can cause a crash. Other drivers may not be able to react in time, especially if they are distracted. A sudden stop might cause the driver behind you to crash into you. Accelerating might cause a crash if another driver is trying to pass you. If you’re about to miss your turn, don’t swerve or slam on the brakes at the last minute and attempt to make the turn. Wait until you can turn around and take the correct street on the next pass. GPS apps will automatically reroute you, so there’s never a good excuse to force your way across traffic.
Speeding and Ignoring Traffic Controls
All traffic control signs, including posted speed limits, are there to keep you safe. They take many safety factors into consideration, including visibility, stopping distances and the possible presence of pedestrians. Running red lights, ignoring crosswalks and passing in no-passing zones are just a few examples of ways aggressive drivers disregard traffic controls. Any of these behaviors could lead to deaths and injuries. Always follow posted signs and traffic control signals.
Put Your Pride in the Back Seat
Remember, if someone is driving aggressively, stay calm and do not be tempted to challenge the driver or retaliate. See our speed and aggressive driving page for more tips and join us in making our streets safe for all road users.