Are you an aggressive driver? Here's how to curb your road rage

Crawford Frazer

You may recognize an aggressive driver on the road, but is it possible you could actually been one yourself? Driving a few miles per hour over the speed limit is one thing; excessive speeding, on the other hand, can be considered aggressive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) provides a checklist of aggressive driving behaviors:

  • Expressing frustration -- and taking this out on other drivers.
  • Not paying attention. This refers to drivers who see their food or cellphone conversation as more important than what's happening on the road.
  • Tailgating other cars.
  • Frequent -- and fast -- lane changes.
  • Running red lights.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, at least one intentional aggressive driving behavior was reported in 56 percent of fatal accidents from 2003 to 2007.

You may be surprised to learn that quite a few drivers admit to aggressive driving. In a 2008 AAA report, drivers surveyed confessed to:

  • Driving at least 15 mph over the speed limit in the past 30 days (50 percent).
  • Speeding to beat a red light (58 percent).
  • Honking at other drivers (41 percent).
  • Pressuring other drivers to speed up (26 percent).
  • Tailgating (22 percent).
  • Deliberately running red lights (6 percent).

Do any of the above sound familiar? Frequent accidents caused by risky behaviors can up your auto insurance premiums and have much more tragic consequences. If you are an aggressive driver, become part of the solution rather than a fatal crash statistic. The Texas Department of Transportation offers some advice:

  • Control your emotions while driving, especially when you encounter another aggressive driver.
  • Plan ahead to allow time for delays.
  • Focus on your own driving. Traffic won't move any faster when you yell or pound your horn.
  • Don't tailgate or flash your lights at another driver.
  • If you're driving in the left lane and another driver wants to pass, allow that driver to do so.

Finally, if you encounter an aggressive driver, do not provoke that person. Avoid eye contact and inappropriate gestures, and give that person plenty of room. Otherwise, you'll likely make the situation worse.

Regulations to prevent aggressive driving

As of April 2011, 14 states had addressed the issue in their legislatures, and 12 of them had passed aggressive driving laws. California's law, for example, specifically addresses speed contests. Georgia's law prohibits the behaviors brought up by NHSTA if they are performed with the "intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person." Utah created its own definition of aggressive driving -- "willful and wanton disregard for safety of persons or property or three or more moving violations in a single continuous period of driving."

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