How Dangerous Is Aggressive Driving?November 2, 2021
It is likely that you will encounter or witness at least one aggressive driver every time you are out driving somewhere. This could involve someone tailgating another vehicle, a speedster running a stop sign, or something much worse. In the majority of cases no one gets hurt, but in too many instances serious and fatal car accidents result. Aggressive driving can also lead to road rage, which can be just as deadly. Aggressive driving is dangerous driving that puts drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk, and it is a common phenomenon that shows no signs of slowing down.
Common Examples of Aggressive Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines an aggressive driver as someone who commits a combination of moving traffic offenses to endanger other persons or property. This is a broad category that includes the following behaviors:
- Passing illegally
- Disregarding traffic signals such as stop signs and red lights
- Not signaling before making lane changes and turns
- Unsafe, erratic lane changes
- Not yielding the right of way
- Driving illegally in the shoulder
Drivers who break laws in these ways act in reckless and negligent manners, showing little or no regard for others around them. By driving aggressively, they are taking out their frustrations on other motorists who can then become angry and escalate the situation. It is easy to see how aggressive driving can lead to deadly road rage incidents.
The Dangers of Speeding
It is a well-known fact that speeding accounts for close to one-third of all motor vehicle accident fatalities. In 2018, NHTSA reported that 17 percent of drivers who were involved in fatal accident were speeding; their data showed that this was 8,596 drivers in total. Rising state speed limits have been linked to increased speeding; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that as these limits have increased over the past 25 years, this has led to the deaths of around 37,000 people. There are 42 states that have maximum speed limits of 70 mph and higher, and 11 states have maximum speed limits of 75 mph. There are eight states that have 80 mph speed limits; there is a road in Texas with an 85 mph limit.
Speeding can be incredibly dangerous, and collision severity is related directly the how fast the vehicles were going. When speed is increased by 50 percent, the resultant energy released in a car accident is more than double. That force is what leads to the most severe injuries as well as fatalities. In addition, passenger restraint systems such as seat belts are often not as effective at high rates of speed.
Why Do People Drive So Aggressively?
Certain people are more prone to aggressive driving behaviors than others. A study by AAA showed that men are more likely to drive aggressively than women, but women drivers are not far behind. They claim that 79 percent of all American drivers are aggressive when behind the wheel, and it is no surprise that speeding is the most common form of this bad behavior.
There are also certain personality traits that are seen in aggressive drivers. One is egotism, which is when someone puts their needs and desires above others. These people can act like ordinary rules such as speed limits do not apply to them, and when they face a minor inconvenience like being late, they will put the pedal to the metal. This trait can show up on rare occasions such as when there is heavy traffic or be present all the time. People who cannot control their emotions can also exhibit aggressive driving behaviors. This is seen more often in new drivers and teenagers; an inability to manage one’s feelings allows bursts of frustration and anger to come up, leading to poorly thought out, impulsive choices on the road.
Another factor that contributes to aggressive driving is perceived anonymity. When people are sheltered in their vehicles, they are shielded from identification; unless someone recognizes their car, drivers are not known to each other. It is interesting how people try to be courteous in person but drive aggressively because they do not think they will have to answer for their actions. If someone does not know who cut them off while driving 85 mph, they really have no recourse unless they put their own life at risk by trying to follow the other person.
Situations that Lead to Aggressive Driving
One of the most common environmental factors that causes aggressive driving is heavy traffic. It can happen during rush hour, on summer weekends heading to the beach, and during the holidays. In urban areas, it can feel like there is traffic congestion constantly. Being forced to drive 10 mph or not moving at all can be incredibly frustrating, and it is common to see cars speeding up the shoulders and cutting others off.
Road construction also causes traffic delays and frustrates drivers, and this can be especially dangerous when there are workers out on the roads and new traffic patterns. Poor weather conditions can also make drivers do the wrong things; they might get impatient if stuck behind someone who is driving below the speed limit during a heavy rain and decide to pass them illegally. Other examples include someone who is approaching the end of a very long drive and wants to get home as soon as possible, a driver who is under the influence, or a driver who wants to take revenge out on someone who did them wrong.
Frightening Road Rage Statistics
Road rage is aggressive driving on steroids; it is when extreme anger or aggression is directed to create harm to another person. Examples include profanity, rude gestures, using brakes and headlights to harass other drivers, hitting or sideswiping another vehicle, and forcing another car off a road. AAA claims that there has been a 500 percent increase in aggressive driving over the past few years, and road rage leads to around 1,800 injuries each year.
Since men are more prone to drive aggressively, it naturally follows that male drivers are more likely to exhibit road rage. Looking at AAA’s statistics for road rage and gender, they found that the percentages were as follows:
- Cutting off other drivers: 15.5 percent of men/8.3 percent of women
- Angrily confronting other drivers: 5.7 percent of men/1.8 percent of women
- Bumping or ramming other vehicles: 4.3 percent of men/1.3 percent of women
The study also found that the most likely age group to commit road rage behaviors were drivers between ages 25 and 39. Approximately 50 percent of the drivers they surveyed admitted to purposely tailgating other vehicles, yelling, and honking. These behaviors are not strictly road rage, but aggressive actions that could very well lead to it.
What Should I Do When I See Aggressive Drivers?
The best advice for when this happens is to stay as far away as possible. Treat aggressive drivers like any other road hazard and maintain a safe distance. You might be shocked at first by what they do, but it is wise to remain as calm and possible, keeping your ego in check. There might be an urge to challenge the aggressor by slowing down, speeding up, or passing them, but this could escalate the situation. It will be a hollow victory, especially if your actions end up causing an accident. If the aggressive driver purposely cuts you off or makes rude gestures, do your best to ignore them; if you must, slow down considerably until they are out of sight. Be sure not to look them in the eyes or engage them in any other way. When it is safe to do so, report the driver; this could save lives.
Also try to monitor your own driving behaviors, since we can all become aggressive without even realizing it. Anyone can become impatient, stressed, or angry when driving, but holding it in check is key to driving safety. No one can control how other drivers behave, and keeping this in mind can provide a better sense of calm. Do not tailgate other drivers or flash your lights, even if they are driving too slow in the left lane. Always follow the posted speed limits, yield and pass legally, and be polite to others who share the road.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Clients Who Have Been Injured by Aggressive Drivers
Even though most people understand the risks of aggressive driving, our roads and highways are full of these individuals who have no regard for the safety of others. If you have been hurt by an aggressive driver or in a road rage incident, contact the trusted Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly examine the cause of the accident and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.