Almost everyone has experienced it at least once in their life. You’re driving along the road when suddenly an angry driver flips you the bird, excessively honks their horn or yells obscenities at you while driving. You’ve just experienced road rage and the person yelling at you is what the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety defines as an aggressive driver.
While it is unknown exactly how many of the some six million crashes occurring in the United States each year are caused by aggressive drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates the number to be substantial. Between 2007 and 2011, 1,133 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes occurred when at least one driver in the crash had a driver related factor of road rage or aggressive driving.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety defines aggressive driving as a driving act that is committed with disregard to the safety of others. That disregard for safety could eventually lead to an act of road rage.
AAA Foundation spokesman Bruce Hamilton said road rage is a step above aggressive driving in terms of intent.
“Naturally, aggressive driving is more common. Road rage is not just disregarding safety, its taking the next step to then act on that aggression and possibly attempt to bring harm to a person,” Hamilton said.
So what’s a person to do when confronted by an aggressive driver? The AAA Foundation offers three simple tips to keep drivers safe during a road rage incident.
“We have a three-pronged approach and that is don’t offend, don’t engage, and adjust your attitude,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton says the first step is to make sure you’re not the aggressive driver.
“You don’t know the person next to you or what they’re day has been like so you don’t want to offend them in any way,” he said. “Make sure you’re exercising courteous driving, to make sure that you’re in the right.”
The second recommended step is to not engage with the aggressive driver.
“Don’t turn an impersonal confrontation into a personal dispute or personal vendetta. That means don’t make eye contact. Steer clear of them if you can; try to get to a well-lit area or even try turning off the road way,” he said.
Adjust your attitude
The third thing to do when confronted by an aggressive driver is to adjust your attitude.
“Don’t treat driving like a game or a contest,” Hamilton said. “Make it about getting where you’re going safely and never stop and try to settle things with the driver. If confronted, stay calm and keep driving toward somewhere where you can get help like a police station or hospital. Call 911 if necessary. If someone is truly following you that can be an emergency.”