Signs You Might Be an Aggressive Driver and Tips for Cooling Your Jets

AAA recently conducted a study and, based on stats published by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), concluded that a little over half of all car-crash fatalities from 2003–2007 could be blamed on aggressive driving. You may think that aggressive driving is defined by getting angry behind the wheel, but you don't have to be mad to drive aggressively. You could just be in a hurry. Here are some signs that you could be an aggressive driver and what you can do to deflate the problem and stay safe on the road so you don't hurt others or end up facing a lawsuit.

Road Rage Versus Aggressive Driving

The first step in knowing whether or not you are an aggressive driver is to understand the difference between this and road rage. It's easy to confuse the two, but there are a few key differences.

According to the NHTSA, aggressive driving is "the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property." Road rage stems from aggressive driving and usually results in name calling and other violent acts towards other drivers. It's also a criminal act, whereas aggressive driving is considered a moving violation.

Road rage, while it can be scary and dangerous when it happens, is not nearly as common as aggressive driving, so the latter is a more serious issue to confront.

Signs of Aggressive Driving  

So you think you tend to stay calm, cool, and collected while driving and have never felt any sort of road rage toward other drivers? That's great, but you still need to know if your driving habits are putting you and others at risk. Here's how to know for sure—ask yourself if you're doing these things.

  • You speed up to block other drivers from merging in front of you
  • You tend to tailgate when drivers in front of you aren't going fast enough
  • You pass others at a high speed when they are going under the speed limit
  • You frequently "put the pedal to the metal" when you hit a yellow light
  • You use your horn when people either don't turn quickly enough or sit still at a green light

You may find yourself getting angry when these things occur. But anger isn't what qualifies as driving aggressively; it's how you react to that anger. 

Causes of Aggressive Driving

This isn't a hard science, and a number of psychological factors can come into play here. Aggressive driving is believed to be caused by a number of triggers, which can include traffic congestion, being in a hurry, a feeling of anonymity, a lack of respect for others or authority (particularly law enforcement), and chronic anger with a pattern of habitual aggressive driving.

Prevention of Aggressive Driving

It stands to reason that if you know the common triggers, you can take steps to prevent yourself from succumbing to aggressive driving. Here are some helpful tips that you can employ next time you get behind the wheel.

  1. Leave early. Since traffic congestion and the fear of running late to work and other appointments are contributing factors, leaving early can help prevent aggressive driving. Set your alarm ten minutes early if necessary, and listen to the news for traffic delays en route.
  2. Pretend you're in line at the store. Feelings of anonymity can lead to overconfidence and a sense of being "protected," particularly if you have tinted windows and other passengers in the car. A good way to bypass this altogether is to simply pretend like you're in line at the grocery store instead of at a red light or on the highway. If someone jumped ahead of you in the checkout lane, you'd be much less likely to act aggressively than you would when you're behind the wheel. In fact, an on-road experiment conducted with drivers who were too slow to move through green lights revealed that people in convertibles with the tops down typically waited longer to honk and honked less frequently than those who were in non-convertible vehicles. The lack of a cover likely stripped away their anonymity, making them feel more exposed and vulnerable.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. While a lack of sleep won't make the everyday driver become violent, studies have shown that it can lead you to react aggressively to certain situations as well as lose control over your emotions. So make sure you get plenty of "Zzs" before getting behind the wheel.
  4. Remember the Golden Rule. Sometimes just the simple act of slowing down and letting someone in front of you can give you a positive feeling. Keep in mind the Golden Rule, and remember that extending kindness to others on the road is not only infectious but can also greatly reduce the likelihood of an accident.

Take these tips to heart to keep yourself and others safer as well as to help yourself avoid personal-injury cases. For more information about laws related to car accidents, talk to a car-accident lawyer, such as one from the Law Offices of Burton J. Hass.