Last week, while sitting at a red light beside a gas station, I noticed an ambulance turn on lights and sirens, then exit from the opposite side of the gas station. During rush hour traffic, the EMTs needed to get through a busy intersection - the one I was waiting to cross. As the light turned green, the ambulance weaved into the turn lane to go through the intersection, so I waited. The guy behind me did not appreciate my adherence to the law and proceeded to lay on his horn to rush me from the light, and then once we could cross he tailgated me and… well, lets just say he made a number of gestures at me.
Since I live in the second worst commute in the country, I’m used to aggressive drivers. After DFW was named the third worst area in the nation to drive in, I did some research and found some interesting tidbits about aggressive driving / "road rage".
- In 2008, there were 61,954 serious accidents on Texas highways.
- Aggressive driving is a traffic violation, and becomes a criminal offense once the drivers yell or gesture at each other.
- Ten states consider aggressive driving a class 2 misdemeanor.
- For every ten MPH you drive over 50 MPH, your risk of death or serious injury doubles.
- 60% of all accidents in 2009 were caused by aggressive driving.
- Three out of every four fatal accidents involving an 18-wheeler are not the fault of the 18-wheeler driver.
- Think twice before cutting in front of a big truck to get through traffic. A semi moving at 55 MPH can take up to a football field to come to a stop.
David Byrd had a similar experience, but with a different outcome, while waiting on an ambulance. "An anxious driver honked a few times at me, and then I pointed to the ambulance. The driver, after seeing the ambulance, put up his hand in apology. So what made the guy behind me react in anger and the guy behind him take a breath? When does the every day driver become the jerk flipping you off?"
There is research showing that the way someone drives is a direct correlation to their personality. While there is no formal profile on someone who is an aggressive driver, research shows a correlation between aggressive driving habits and following personality traits:
- Found to have more judgmental and disbelieving thoughts about others.
- Tend to express their anger and other emotions outwardly while also acting impulsively.
- Aggressive drivers are more likely to inaccurately access risks on a cognitive level.
- Have more competitive personalities or are even considered “egotistic”.
Curbing aggressive driving isn’t just about the other people who are on the highways with you. You can make some changes to the way you drive to lower the chance that you encounter an aggressive driver.
- The left lane is for passing only, not cruising along at the posted speed limit.
- Don’t react to aggressive drivers (even if the temptation is usually there to lay on the horn to some idiot in a white Prius who barely missed you while trying to merge across six lanes of traffic at the last minute).
Although, when following these precautions you can still run into that one driver that makes their aggression apparent to everyone on the roads. Mary Williams recalls one encounter she witnessed not too long ago. "I was driving into work one morning when I ran into a pretty bad accident involving a construction truck. Traffic was at a standstill. This woman driving what looked like a Land Rover decides to move from the center lane to the right lane. Without turning on her blinker to give any courtesy, she just scoots on over. I don’t think she checked to see if she was clear because she ended up forcing a driver of a compact car onto the shoulder to avoid a collision. The driver of the compact car took this offensively. They drove on the shoulder and then cut off the driver of the SUV. I then hear horns blaring and see obscene gestures being thrown out. In my opinion, both parties were being aggressive. Luckily, neither of them caused another accident."
So when you encounter an aggressive driver, remember that maybe they just a had really bad day. Leave them alone and don't provoke them. They probably aren't thinking 100% logically. Things can get out of hand very quickly on the road.
And remember - if you wouldn’t act like that in public, why are you acting like that on the highway? (Thanks MNDot)
Slow down folks, drive carefully, because we’re all in this together.
Here are some links to some interesting research and findings about aggressive driving and road rage: