Aggressive driving and road rage have been around since motor vehicles were invented. In recent years, aggressive driving has increased. When provoked, aggressive, angry drivers have been known to commit acts of violence, commonly known a road rage.
The difference between aggressive driving and road rage is that aggressive driving is a traffic offense while road rage is a criminal offense.
Aggressive Driving Defined
Aggressive driving is normally defined as a progression of unlawful driving actions such as:
- Exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions
- Failure to leave a safe distance between vehicles
- Running a red light or stop light
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to signal intent
- Using an emergency lane to pass or passing on a shoulder
Road Rage Defined
Road rage can be defined as an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by a vehicle’s operator or passenger(s) upon another person, when the assault was precipitated by an incident, which occurred on a roadway. Road rage requires willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.
Reasons for Road Rage
Although road rage is not a new phenomenon, there is ample reason to believe it is increasing and may continue to increase in the future.
- Traffic congestion is getting worse. Since 1987, the number of miles or roads has increased by 1% while the miles driven has increased by approximately 35%.
- Research has found that commuters in larger cities average over 40 hours a year in traffic jams.
- The shift of jobs to suburbs, often with narrow, congested roads, has created what is referred to as “edge cities.” Workers in these edge cities breaking for lunch have created a third (noon – 1 PM) rush hour.
- There has been a significant increase in women in the workforce, and thus, driving a motor vehicle to and from work. From 1969-1990, the number of women licensed to drive increased 84%.
- There are simply more vehicles on the road. In the past decade, the number of motor vehicles grew 17%, while the population increased by 10%.
- The increased number of sports utility vehicles (“suburban assault vehicles”) may also influence aggressive driving. When they get into these larger, heavier vehicles, some people feel they are more invulnerable and subsequently drove more aggressively.
Examples of Aggressive Driving
(that can lead to road rage)
The following are examples of aggressive driving behavior that can lead to road rage:
- Exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph.
- Running a red light or stop sign.
- Making a right turn on red without stopping.
- Tailgating excessively
- Driving in the left lane excessively at the posted speed limit – blocking the passing lane.
- Making hand or finger gestures at other drivers.
- Unnecessary use of high beam headlights.
- Honking at other drivers blocking or slowing traffic.
- Abrupt, un-signaled changes of lanes.
- Failure to use turn signals when turning.
- Flashing lights to signal a desire to pass.
Interventions to Prevent Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
- Legislation. A number of states have introduced legislation directed at controlling road rage. Definition problems and concerns about conflicts with current traffic laws are barriers to passing aggressive driving legislation.
- Education and Awareness. Many public (police departments, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and private organizations (Allstate Insurance, Nissan-North America) have developed education and awareness programs to teach drivers about their own behavior and how to deal with the aggressive behavior of other drivers.
- Increased Enforcement. Increased efforts by law enforcement on local, state and municipal levels are another means to combat or reduce road rage. Enforcement methods include the use of unmarked cars, helicopters or fixed-wing aircraft, motorcycles, video cameras, radar, and non-conventional vehicles.
- Call-In Cellular Phones or Two-Way Radio Systems. A number of telephone hotlines allow citizens with cellular telephones to report aggressive driving incidents directly to law enforcement agencies. Commercial fleet vehicles with two-way radios can also report incidents of aggressive driving. In most jurisdictions, however, traffic citations cannot be issued solely based upon a citizen complaint without supporting observation of a law enforcement officer.
- Graduated Licensing. Graduated licensing consists of a learner’s stage, an intermediate driving stage and an unrestricted driving stage. Approximately half of the states have adopted some features of graduated licensing. Graduated licensing is an additional means of providing early awareness and prevention of violent or aggressive driving.
- Photographic Traffic Law Enforcement. Automated enforcement of traffic laws and rules using photographs and videotapes can be especially effective in monitoring highway-railway grade crossings, enforcing speed limits, and citing red light violations.
- Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Intelligent transportation systems will be more widespread in the 21st Century. Among other things, ITS can automatically adjust to the flow of traffic and reduce the time drivers have to stop at red lights for no apparent reasons. They can also provide traveler advisory systems including changeable message boards and advisory radio.
- The Internet. Education and awareness material related to driving behavior, aggressive driving and road rage could be presented via the Internet. A number of police departments are currently using their Internet web site to provide information about aggressive driving and road rage.
Road Rage – When & Where Does It Occur?
- Survey results indicate that road rage is most likely to occur on a Friday afternoon. It is during the afternoon peak traffic hours that drivers are most apt to be both fatigued and rushed.
- Road rage incidents occur most frequently during the summer months.
- Urban areas are the most frequently reported locations for road rage incidents.
- Road rage happens most frequently in moderately congested traffic, perhaps because heavily congested traffic conditions lower driver’s expectations.
Avoiding Road Rage
- Avoid cutting other drivers off in traffic.
- Don’t tailgate – Allow at least a two-second space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you.
- Signal several hundred feet before you change lanes or make a turn.
- Avoid making any gestures or eye contact with another driver.
- Be courteous in the use of high-beam headlights.
- Don’t flash your lights or blow your horn as a signal of your desire to pass another vehicle.
- Forget winning and allow yourself ample time for your trip.
- Obey speed limits.
- Drive in the right of middle lane; pass on the left.
- Stop at stop signs and red lights; don’t run yellow lights.
- Don’t block intersections.
- Report pedestrian right-of-way in crosswalks.
- Put yourself in the other driver’s shoes. Don’t take other driver’s actions personally.
- If someone follows you after an on-the-road encounter, drive to a public place or to the nearest police station.
- Report any aggressive driving incidents to the police immediately.
Do Not Engage Other Drivers
- Avoid engaging other driver, even if they have done something to make you angry or vice versa.
- Put as much distance between you and the other driver as possible and avoid making eye contact.
- Never pull off a roadway to confront another driver.