Dangers of Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

We’ve all seen aggressive drivers on the road. Swerving in and out of traffic, passing on the shoulder, honking at cars that get in the way, and tailgating dangerously close to other vehicles are all driving behaviors we avoid and condemn in others. These behaviors are often charged as reckless driving by the police. However, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 80 percent of us actually express anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once a year. This behavior, even when it only happens occasionally, increases our risk of getting in an accident and endangers our passengers. Learn more about the risk factors for aggressive driving and how to keep your emotions in check when you drive.

What Is Aggressive Driving?

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 is a purposely broad definition, designed to include all forms of dangerous and risky driving, not just incidents of obvious road rage. AAA cites the following common behaviors as potentially aggressive acts:

  • Racing
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to observe signs and regulations
  • Seeking confrontations with other drivers
  • Driving slowly in the passing lane
  • Speeding

Very few drivers can claim they never engage in at least some of these behaviors occasionally. Whenever your driving angers other drivers, you are contributing to aggressive and dangerous driving. Speeding is a factor in one-third of all fatal crashes and all drivers are guilty of speeding at least some of the time.

How to Control Aggressive Tendencies

AAA identifies four key emotions as factors in aggressive driving: anger, impatience, competition, and punishment.  Once you identify your risk factors, you can take the following actions to reduce your chances of being involved in an aggressive-driving crash:

  • Anger. Allow yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go and don’t allow other drivers’ behaviors to affect your mood. Take a “Be my guest” attitude when drivers pass you or cut you off, rather than fighting back.
  • Impatience. Again, eliminate the need to be impatient by allowing yourself time to get to your destination. Remind yourself that when others drive the speed limit, they are following the law and you should not be impatient with them. Turn on the radio to music or news programs that offer a mild distraction from the behaviors of other drivers.
  • Competition. If you frequently find yourself challenging other drivers at stop lights or toll booths, you need to find a way to reign in your ego and competitive nature. Remind yourself, especially if you have children in the car, that the most important thing is to arrive at your destination safely—not to “win” something that is not even an actual competition!
  • Punishment. Drivers who believe it is their duty to punish other drivers for what they perceive to be bad driving often end up in road rage incidents. It is not your job to block lanes, yell at other drivers, shine your high beams into an oncoming car, or hold up an intersection. Leave punishment up to the police and learn to let bygones be bygones.

By collecting data of those taking this quiz, AAA has discovered that almost half of all drivers admit to honking at or yelling at other drivers and over half admit to tailgating on purpose. These actions are aggressive and can lead to crashes or violent reactions from other drivers. Aggressive actions are never worth it.

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