You are in 5 p.m. traffic and along with thousands of other drivers are making your way home when you happen to glance in the rearview mirror and see a small car coming up fast.
At the moment you have no way to move since traffic is heavy, so the car falls in behind you about 10 feet off your bumper. You can tell the driver is trying to “push” you out of the way ... you can feel their aggression! Finally the driver gives up, makes a hard, three-lane change to the slow lane (without using turns signals), and punches it. The car races forward, tailgating, making abrupt lane changes. You cringe expecting a traffic collision any second.
This is what the CHP terms “aggressive driving” and it is dangerous. In today’s article I will outline some of the signs and symptoms of an aggressive driver (giving you an opportunity for self-diagnoses), the difference between aggressive driving and “road rage,” and how you can be a good commuter.
Self-assessment. As you read the following paragraph, be honest with yourself. Do you find yourself routinely speeding, even during bad weather? Do you get upset when people won’t get out of your way, forcing you to tailgate, encouraging them to move over? Maybe you make frequent and sudden lane changes, squeezing between cars to shave a few seconds off your commute time? How about intersections? Do you come to a complete stop or do you performing a rolling “California” stop? Do you yield the right-of-way to vehicles to your right or do you cut people off? Perhaps you even make pedestrians wait or pull out right in front of them at crosswalks?
If this describes your normal driving habits, you are an aggressive driver. A vehicular time bomb. The good news is, there is still time to change the way you drive!
Make a decision to drive better. I have said this before: allow more travel time to get to your destination. Your stress level will drop dramatically.
Come to a full stop where required. Be nice! Allow other drivers to merge and don’t follow other cars too closely. Concentrate on driving, not your passengers, utilizing your cell phone or other distractions.
And whatever you do, resist the temptation to teach someone “a lesson.” Once you start down the road-rage path, you are now in the misdemeanor zone. The difference between aggressive driving and road rage is intent to harm. If you jam on your brakes to teach a tailgater a “lesson,” you could be a committing serious crime. A vehicle used in such a way can be considered a “lethal weapon.” Don’t do it — you’re better than that.
How to avoid aggressive drivers. If you see an aggressive driver coming up fast behind you, don’t block the lane. Change lanes to your right, if possible, and let them go by. Stay relaxed! Don’t let yourself get angry due to another person’s poor behavior. This includes “stare downs” and rude gestures. If the situation warrants, call 911 and report the aggressive driver. No matter what, do not pull over and confront them. That’s our job, so give us a call. Be prepared to provide identifying information such as the make, model and color of the vehicle, as well as where you are and what direction you’re traveling.
I know what you’re thinking, “Maybe I do some of those things, but I’ve never been in a collision!” On average, 175,000 Californians are injured and 1,800 are killed every year. These life-altering statistics are due to speeding, tailgating, unsafe lane changes, unsafe passing, and violating the right-of-way of other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
The world we live in is huge and sometimes it is hard to remember all those numbers are real people with real lives. Could you live with yourself knowing you could have prevented a serious injury or death by just slowing down and exercising some patience?
Remember you can’t control traffic, but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.