Seeing Red

What is aggressive driving? 

Image courtesy Northland Road Safety

Image courtesy Northland Road Safety

Aggressive driving involves deliberate behaviors that put people and property at risk, such as speeding, running red lights, tailgating, cutting off other drivers, and weaving through traffic. Usually, it includes a combination (or all) of the above. And if a driver moves beyond acting out in frustration and actually tries to use their vehicle to do harm, aggressive driving becomes “road rage,” a criminal offense. Aggressive driving not only puts you and others in danger, it can be expensive as well. Most insurers won’t cover an accident resulting from deliberate or reckless behavior, and a road-rage incident on your record can substantially raise your rates.





Are you an aggressive driver? 4 ways to tell:

  • You hit the gas when the light turns yellow

  • When someone tries to merge at the last minute, you “teach them a lesson” by not letting them in
  • You lay on your horn when someone is slow to respond to a green light
  • You’re frustrated by a slow driver in the left lane, so you ride their bumper or zoom past them on the right

Can you avoid becoming an aggressive driver? Yes! To keep your inner Mr. Hyde from coming out, try these tips: 

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going - being late increases frustration levels
  • Use traffic reports or traffic apps to prepare yourself for (or ideally, avoid) delays
  • Listen to music, the news, or an audio book if you find background noise soothing rather than distracting
  • Don’t take things personally — give other drivers the benefit of the doubt
  • Adjust your schedule to avoid peak traffic times if possible
  • Avoid driving when you’re angry or stressed
  • Remember that red lights and traffic jams are beyond your control, and getting upset won’t change anything

Is it possible to avoid conflicts with other drivers? Here are a few things that can help keep you from lighting someone else’s fuse:

  • Use the left lane for passing only
  • Use your horn only when necessary
  • Don’t use hand gestures to express your frustration
  • Remember to always use your turn signals
  • Be courteous and allow plenty of room when passing and merging
  • If you make a mistake, acknowledge it with a friendly wave

What if an aggressive driver challenges you? The best way to diffuse the situation is to let it go. Reacting may cause the problem to escalate. If confronted by an angry driver: 

  • Avoid eye contact with the driver if possible
  • Don’t respond to or return hand gestures
  • Give the driver plenty of space
  • Resist the urge to put them in their place by racing or blocking them
  • If the driver follows you, drive to a police station, store, or other public area — do not go home
Ultimately, your best protection against aggressive drivers or other road hazards is to learn
defensive driving techniques,
and always buckle up.

For more driving tips, see this edition of Wachs Weekly