Aggressive driving is any driving behavior that endangers or has the potential to endanger people or property. Speeding is one of the primary forms and leading causes of traffic fatalities. In 2021, an estimated 11,780 people died in car accidents where speed was a factor, up 5% from 2020.
At 1800AskGary, we take countless calls from distraught drivers after a crash involving another driver with road rage. They recommend taking steps to avoid a run-in with someone driving dangerously to prevent becoming another statistic. Avoiding an aggressive driver requires that you stay alert and use defensive driving techniques. You also need to know what behaviors to look for.
Look Out for These Aggressive Driving Behaviors
Not all bad driving behavior is due to purposeful aggression. A speeding driver might just be late for an appointment. However, the action still fits the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s definition of aggressive driving.
Aggressive drivers may not direct their behaviors to you, but they still have little regard for your safety. It may be entirely up to you to prevent a car accident. If you engage in distracted driving, you may not see the danger until it’s too late. Concentrate on the road and remain aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for the following dangerous behaviors from other drivers:
- Ignoring the posted speed limit
- Cutting off a vehicle and slamming on the breaks
- Passing in the right-hand side
- Changing lanes frequently
- Not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign
- Running a red light
Road conditions and bad weather can turn typical driving behaviors into risky driving. The police may ticket someone driving the speed limit under winter driving conditions. As such, you must take extra precautions when the situation warrants. Here are a few safety tips for avoiding a dangerous driver.
A large part of driving safely is being prepared. Make sure you are in a good physical and mental state before hitting the road, especially if you have a long drive, traffic is bad or weather conditions are challenging. Don’t get behind the wheel if you are impaired due to alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, illness, or a heightened emotional state. Impaired drivers are less aware and have less control over their actions and reactions.
You should also make sure you and your passengers buckle your seat belts, even if you only drive a short distance. If you get into a car accident with an aggressive driver, it will likely be more serious than a fender bender. In 2020, 51% of all auto occupants killed in a traffic accident weren’t wearing a seat belt. If young children are in the vehicle, make sure they are securely fastened in their car seats.
Maintain a Safe Following Distance
One essential safety tip for avoiding a crash with an aggressive driver is to keep a safe distance from other vehicles on the road. Defensive driving requires ensuring you have enough time to respond if the car in front of you slams on the brakes or runs into trouble.
The rule of thumb is to allow three seconds between you and the lead vehicle. You can determine if you are at a safe driving distance by timing how long it takes to reach a designated point after the car in front passes it.
When aggressive drivers cross your path, it can be challenging to keep your cool. However, failure to do so may exacerbate the situation. If the driver makes rude gestures, yells at you, or tries to engage you another way, ignore it and avoid eye contact.
Making eye contact is often perceived as a challenge, so it’s best to keep your eyes forward. Create some distance between you and the other driver as safely as possible. That space reduces the likelihood of the individual continuing to act aggressively toward you.
Slowing down is about more than following speed limits. If you encounter an aggressive driver, you may find that your emotions elevate quickly from calm to road rage. Not only might you make matters worse with the other driver, but you also risk putting yourself, your passengers, other motorists, and even pedestrians in danger.
If you feel your emotions might get the best of you, slow your vehicle down and pull over if you can do so safely. You don’t want to be the one who causes the accident. Take a few deep breaths. Wait until you feel calm again and have more distance between you and the offending driver before you start on your way again.
Report Aggressive Drivers
When you encounter aggressive drivers, you can report them, even if you aren’t involved in an accident. If you have your cell phone, you can report the driver by calling #77 or local law enforcement. Most states require hand-free calling, so if you don’t have that ability, make sure you pull over to a safe location.
When you call in motorists for driving dangerously, you will need to provide vehicle descriptions, the last location you saw the car, and the direction it was heading. It is recommended to get the license plate number if possible.
Reporting dangerous drivers can help keep other drivers safe. The police don’t take unsafe driving lightly. Depending on the circumstances, they are likely to look for the vehicle and may issue a warning, ticket, or suspension.
Be Aware of Potential Danger
Some situations are inherently more dangerous, with an increased risk of getting into an accident with an aggressive driver. Approach stop signs and traffic lights with extra caution. You might have the right of way, but an unsafe driver isn’t necessarily going to pay attention to whose turn it is.
When driving in traffic and on the highway, stay in the right lane except to pass. No matter which lane you are in, be mindful of driving in another motorist’s blind spot. If you are in the blind spot, slow down when in the right lane or speed up (without going over the speed limit) when in the passing lane.
Take a Defensive Driving Refresher Course
After years behind the wheel, it’s easy to become complacent about proper driving techniques. It also doesn’t hurt to brush up on how to drive defensively.
An experienced driving instructor can provide tips on what to do when you come across dangerous driving behavior. Your actions can go a long way in reducing the risk of a traffic accident, even though it’s the other individual whose driving is unsafe.
Contact Law Enforcement After an Accident
If you get into a car crash, there are steps you can take to prevent further damage or danger. If you are on the highway or a busy road, pull over to a safer place, crossing as few lanes as possible.
Make sure you keep your seat belt fastened until you are out of traffic. Check for injuries on yourself and the passengers in your car. If you can safely do so, determine if the other vehicle’s occupants and any pedestrians involved need medical assistance.
Whether the accident is a fender bender or serious, call 911 or local law enforcement to the scene. If the driver is still aggressive, wait until the police arrive to handle gathering the necessary information. However, if they’ve gained control over their emotions, exchange the following information:
- Name and contact information
- Car make, model, and year
- License plate number
- Drivers license number
- Insurance information
If there are witnesses, you should also gather their names and contact information. A safe driving experience starts with you; these tips can help you avoid dangerous situations and aggressive drivers.