You may feel like a confident driver, but are you dangerous? “No, I am an assertive driver.” There is a reason tickets and insurance premiums can shock self-identified assertive drivers. How we think about what distinguishes assertive, aggressive, and defensive driving often falls short. Road rage, be it the colorful mutterings under your breath or cutting "bad drivers" off, is only the extreme case. Most people in accidents have a good driving record. Nonetheless, daily life means that traffic delays, time crunches, rude drivers, and stress can leave us unaware of the safety threat boiling within otherwise good neighbors. Maybe it is not even habit, or it is only on your morning commute. The occasional bad day can be a lethal day of aggressive driving. What if your life depended on staying calm?
Aggressive driving is a deadly contributor to the 5 million yearly car accidents. Collisions are the leading cause of death for people 3 to 33 years old. And of the top 12 causes of fatal collisions, aggressive driving is critical. Over 50% of fatal collisions are caused by aggressive driving.
Causes of Fatal Crashes Attributable to Aggressive Driving:
#4 Failing to yield the right-of-way
#6 Reckless driving, including common dangerous habits
#7 Failing to obey traffic signs and signals
Still certain you are not an aggressive driver? Well, what if we tell you that obeying a traffic signal means slowing down for yellow lights? Or, that rolling stops are not actual stops? Are you always in a hurry? Are you frequently angry when driving? These are all symptoms of aggressive driving. In other words, what if impatient and time-starved driving is aggressive driving? The time saved may also be time and money lost in tickets, accidents, and injury. Keeping an eye on the expressions and habits of aggressive driving may lower your stress and chances of collision. And, it's cheaper than yoga classes.
Signs You May Be an Aggressive Driver
SPEEDING. Constantly. It is a thing. You are eternally time-starved and in a rush, annoyed by traffic, an inhumanly hectic schedule, and slow drivers who barely make the speed limit. You live in the fast lane. And, let’s face it, you think it is only the passing lane for people like yourself, who are going faster than everyone else, and not for those simply passing one or two people ahead of them.
NEVER YIELDING THE RIGHT-OF-WAY. It’s always your turn. When someone hesitates to go, you gun it like it is a yellow light (which is also dangerous and a serious no-no). It feels evident that the whole world is full of incompetent drivers.
WEAVING. Frequent and unsafe lane changes are a part of everyday life. You think of this as efficiency. You spend most of your drive scanning for opportunities, crossing as many lanes as possible, and looking for cops. You get angry where there is space you cannot get into. You frequently pass on the left—wherever left is. And, occasionally you believe that you should have been a race car driver.
FAILING TO SIGNAL. Last minute turns and opportunities to change lanes mean turn signals are afterthoughts. You are looking to get where you need to go as quickly as possible. No holds or turns barred. Impatiently, you believe the road is a competitive battleground: what if someone speeds up because I put on my signal? In your heart of heart, with every blood pressure spike occurring when other drivers fail to signal, you know the importance and courtesy of a timely signal.
TAILGATING. You are never close enough (because someone is always in your way). You are constantly trying to communicate your priority on the road. You flash your lights. You tailgate. You find yourself suddenly breaking and accelerating regularly.
THE HORN is not an anger management tool. Good car horn etiquette is important to a calm, safe drive for you and others sharing the road. A safe, even assertive, driver will rarely use the horn. Occasionally, it is a friendly “hello” to a distracted driver. An aggressive driver will lay on the horn.
LANE BLOCKING. Deliberately preventing someone from merging or changing lanes. This is particularly ironic since most aggressive drivers believe that blocking the passing lane should be a corporal offense.
You have probably realized reading this that impatient driving is aggressive driving. It is easy to allow the occasional or daily strain make for deadly habits. Aggressive Driver Courses and curriculum are increasingly being required in Drivers Ed and by state motor vehicle departments following violations. Road rage statistics show that approximately half of all drivers are prone purposefully tailgate and/or yell at other drivers. Do not wait until it is too late. Drive safely. Enjoy the ride.