Many people who move to the Phoenix area tell me that they think we have very aggressive drivers here. Without any credible data to back it up, I will tell you that I believe there are two reasons for this:
- The highways and city streets here are generally in excellent condition. It is not uncommon to find city streets that are six or more lanes across. Lanes are nice and wide, and there are no potholes. Most streets are straight. All of these factors lead to fast driving, which, to many, equates to aggressive driving.
- The population of Arizona has grown tremendously over the past 20 years, with the largest number of 'immigrants' coming from California, which is known for having aggressive drivers and road rage incidents.
No matter where you are from, or where you live today, road rage and aggressive driving are important to understand, so you can do your best to keep away from situations that might involve an accident or worse.
What is Road Rage?
Road rage is defined by the NHTSA as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway." In order for an incident to be defined as road rage, there must be "willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others." In other words, road rage means that someone deliberately tried to harm you as a result of something that happened while you were driving your car.
What is Aggressive Driving?
Aggressive driving is defined as a progression of unlawful driving actions such as: speeding, improper or excessive lane changing, failing to signal intent, failing to see that movement can be made safely, or, improper passing (such as using an emergency lane to pass, or passing on the shoulder). Aggressive drivers know that you don't know who they are, so they feel like they have more power and can do as they please. They don't believe there will be consequences to their actions.
Signs of Aggressive Driving
You may not even be aware of it, but if some of the following items sound like you when you drive, you are probably an aggressive driver:
- Expressing frustration, cursing, yelling, gesturing to other drivers.
- Not paying attention. Eating, drinking, talking on the phone, reading while driving.
- Frequently changing lanes
- Running red lights
You can change these driving patterns by concentrating on the issue at hand--driving. Be calm, drive at the same speed as the cars around you (although this is not a legal excuse for driving too fast), take less congested or easier routes (making a series of right turns may be a lot easier than trying to make a left turn through six lanes of traffic), leave yourself enough time to get where you are going without driving like a maniac, and, if necessary, decide you'll be a little late and stay calm.
If you are confronted by an aggressive driver, your best course of action is to get out of his way. Swallow your pride, and let him do whatever he pleases, so he can get away from you. Resist the urge to not let him pass, or not let him merge. Do not make eye contact. You don't want to see any gestures he may be using, and you don't want to be tempted to return the sentiment. This back and forth is exactly what often leads to road rage.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were more than 6 million vehicle crashes in 2001. We have no way of knowing how many of those were a direct result of either road rage, or aggressive driving, but it is safe to assume that many of these could have been avoided. We can also assume that if people drove less aggressively, that a significant number of the more than 42,000 people who died in this country as a result of vehicle crashes (2001) would still be with us today.
Let's try to make driving a less challenging experience--be safe out there!
Thanks to the State of Arizona Department of Public Safety for sharing this Road Rage and Aggressive Driving information.