Aggressive Driving: Definition, Causes & How to Avoid It

Aggressive Driving: Definition, Causes & How to Avoid It

We’ve all experienced aggressive driving – whether we were the aggressor or the victim. No matter your role, aggressive driving puts you and the motorists around you in danger. 

But don’t take our word for it. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), aggressive driving is defined as “a combination of moving traffic offenses to endanger other persons or property.” 

Keep yourself and the others around you safe by understanding the causes and signs of aggressive driving. What follows is a roadmap of preventative and corrective measures you can take to avoid road rage.

Signs of an Aggressive Driver

The NHTSA characterizes aggressive driving as the following types of conduct. If you see anyone on the road engaging in these behaviors, exercise caution:

  • Speeding
  • Dodging in and out of traffic
  • Passing on the right
  • Running stop signs or red lights
  • Tailgating
  • Cutting others off
  • Ignoring the right of way 

What Causes Aggressive Driving

When it comes to aggressive driving, context matters. Depending on the situation, there are internal and external factors that contribute to aggressive driving – or worse, road rage. 

External Factors of Aggressive Driving

Chances are, you’ve ran late for an appointment or experienced heavy traffic and, as a result, resorted to speeding in order to make it to your destination on time. These situations are considered external causes of aggressive driving. When drivers need to make up for lost time due to external delays, they will often respond by driving aggressively – speeding, tailgating, or ignoring the right of way.

Internal Factors of Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving can also be caused by internal factors, which are typically more abstract than external factors. Internal causes of aggressive driving can include one’s personality, personal habits, or the general disregard for others that comes with anonymity on the road.  

How to Avoid Aggressive Driving

Avoid aggressive driving by planning ahead. Factor in external triggers like road construction or unexpected traffic delays. Set alarms in the morning before work to benchmark steps in your routine and to remind yourself when you need to be in your car and on the road.

Handling internal factors might prove more challenging than handling external factors. For example, you may not be aware of or able to admit to your tendency towards aggressive driving. Through the practice of emotion management, which can be taught with counseling or defensive driving courses, you can learn valuable de-escalation tips to control aggressive driving impulses on the road. 

Last, don’t retaliate against aggressive drivers for their malicious behavior. Instead, disengage by letting them pass, avoiding eye contact, and withdrawing from their personal space.

How to Avoid Road Rage in Your Car

Safety starts behind YOUR wheel. Let’s help keep each other safe on the road by developing habits to avoid road rage temptations.

1. Give Yourself Time to Get Where You Are Going

If you need to be somewhere at a certain time, give yourself plenty of time to do so by factoring in the possibility of traffic delays. Plan ahead and set expectations about your commute to avoid future stress that might lead to aggressive driving and road rage.

2. Do Not Drive Under Distress

If you’re in a bad headspace, put the keys down. Maybe you received some upsetting news or had an argument with someone. You should consider putting off non-essential trips until you’ve had enough time to cool off from the heated situation. If you have to be somewhere for a scheduled appointment and you’re still feeling intense emotion, consider calling a rideshare service or taking public transportation if you have the means.

3. Practice Good Driving Habits

You should not be speeding past other vehicles or weaving in and out of traffic. Avoid making rude gestures or remarks towards other drivers. Instead, practice good driving habits by giving other motorists plenty of space and grace.

4. Only Use Your Horn When It Is Appropriate

Car horns are right at your fingertips for a reason. But remember – they’re for emergencies only. Excessive horn honking is highly discouraged. Instead, use your horn only when it is appropriate – like if someone is about to accidentally cut you off because you’re in their blind spot.

5. Be Mindful of Other Drivers

No one’s perfect. We all make mistakes. It’s important to remember this when the drivers around you fail to follow traffic laws, such as failing to signal ahead of a lane change. In these situations prevent aggressive driving by reminding yourself that minor errors like these aren’t intentional; they’re bound to happen from time to time.

Way to Avoid Road Rage From Other Drivers

While safety starts with you, you can’t control other drivers’ behaviors and the factors influencing their decisions. However, there are actions you can take to drive defensively and keep yourself safe from reckless behavior on the road.

1. Removing Yourself From The Situation

If you encounter a driver who is showing signs of road rage – tailgating, swerving, excessive honking –  the best thing to do is create a safe distance between your vehicle and theirs. Allow them to pass or slow down to give them plenty of clearance ahead.

2. Ignore Them If They Are Being Rude

If you notice other drivers being rude – perhaps yelling out their window or giving rude gestures – avoid potential road rage situations by ignoring these behaviors. You do not want to acknowledge rude behavior and risk escalating the situation further.

3. Call For Help If Necessary

If you are being targeted by an aggressive driver, call 911 immediately and drive to a public location or your nearest police station. Even though they are only targeting one specific vehicle, this behavior poses a threat to all vehicles on the road.

4. Apologizing For Your Mistake

If you make an error on the road, never be afraid to admit your mistake. Perhaps you accidentally remained stopped for a few moments after a traffic light turned green. Acknowledge your mistake and – more importantly – apologize for it. Wave or smile to let others know you didn’t intend any harm and bring calm to the situation.

Car Accident Law Services

Whether they’re caused by aggressive driving, road rage, or other factors, car accidents happen. If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Arizona or Utah, a reputable car accident lawyer like Esquire Law can help you navigate the unpleasant aftermath. 

Especially if you’ve been injured in the accident, you should be able to focus on your physical and financial recovery. Esquire Law will investigate the circumstances of the accident, negotiate with insurance companies to get you the compensation you’re owed, and, if necessary, advocate on your behalf in court.

Remember: Safety starts with you. If you’ve been in a car accident, Esquire Law will take control of what you can’t.

About the Author

Alan Beal

esquire law attorney Alan Beal

Alan Beal is a trial attorney who has dedicated his professional career to helping real people navigate the complexities of the insurance and legal system. Before joining Esquire Law, Alan represented insurance corporations in a variety of legal matters, ranging from personal injury to product liability disputes. His experience as an insurance defense attorney provides ... Alan Beal

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