16 Contributions to Aggressive Driving Accidents

Driver in car at steering wheel with black-rimmed glassesWe’ve all been there:  the roads are congested as far as the eye can see, the tops of the cars in front of you are bubbling in the glaring sunlight, and the boorish monster in the car next to you is singing a Katy Perry song so off-key that the dog on the other side of you is howling in reply.  There seems to be no end in sight, and your temper is rising as quickly as the temperature outside.  Sooner or later, you just know you’re going to crack.

Frustration can beset anyone on the road, no matter how level-headed they are generally.  Now that summer is nigh, and with it, summer travelers, driver frustration can be expected to increase for the busiest and most dangerous traffic of the year.  It is during this season that both driver annoyances and the importance of keeping calm reach their peak:  a phone survey showed that 32% of drivers see aggressive driving accidents as a serious threat to safety.  

The traffic frustrations are not something you can reasonably hope to avoid without swearing off cars altogether.  However, with a little knowledge of the most common bothers can help prepare you for what is coming (and remind you of those behaviors and circumstances that can contribute to risks).

1.  Anonymity

In the relative privacy of their cars, people are apt to behave in ways they would not if they were standing before the people they’re interacting with.  Behind tinted windows lurks an irate monster that the peach of a person keeps under wraps elsewhere.  It behooves the defensive driver to keep that monster at bay by behaving with especial courtesy on the road, as you never know what might set someone off.

2.  Time Constraints

When a person is in a serious hurry, they lose sight of those objects in the periphery of the visual tunnel that leads to their object.  Their desperation to make an appointment or deadline may render them impervious to the presence of other people and to the risk of aggressive driving accidents.  Almost nothing permits that kind of rush—a baby born in the defensively-driven car is, nevertheless, alive.  Plan ahead whenever possible to avoid this kind of road rage.

3.  Gesturing

It should go without saying that a shaking fist, sarcastic wave, or flying finger will only ignite tempers in a tense situation; under no circumstances will it motivate better driving.  Yet, many aggressive driving accidents arise every year because someone ignored this most basic rule.  Anger is natural; but politeness is always possible.

4.  Driver Distraction

Poor driving is irritating enough when it’s a student driver paralyzed by timidity or an older person with a slower reaction time.  When someone drives badly because they are eating a falafel, putting on nail polish, or talking on a cell phone, that irritation quickly turns to wrath.  You can prevent both distracted and aggressive driving accidents by watching the road.

5.  Tailgating

What clearer way to send the message, “I’m just waiting for you to mess up” than by tailgating someone?  If you know an answer, you had better not apply it; as the road is possibly the worst place to feel scrutinized or pressured.  Tailgating is rude and dangerous when the driver in front needs to make a quick stop.  Always maintain a reasonable following distance.

6.  Horn Use

 If you are driving along a dark road, and an oncoming car swerves into your lane as its driver slumps over the dashboard, honking your horn may alert them and avert disaster.  Sometimes the car in front of you doesn’t notice that the light has turned green, and a modest beep may get them going.  However, honking is not a good way to express disapproval of another person’s driving style.  The best thing to do is get out of their range as soon as possible.

7.  Headlight Abuse

Headlights are terrific for improving your visibility in the dark; and that’s just what they should do.  They should not be bright enough to blind oncoming traffic or flashed in an attempt to bully or intimidate other drivers.

8.  Obstructive Driving

The road is no place to play “hall monitor.”  It’s perfectly possible to obey the speed limit without insisting that others do likewise.  (That’s the job of law enforcement.)  You will only invite peevishness at least and possible retribution by preventing another driver from passing, changing lanes, or otherwise getting to wherever they’re going.  When another driver is in a hurry, give them a wide berth.

9. Perceptions of Ticketing

In a 50-state study, 61%of respondents said that their state’s biggest obstacle to speed limit enforcement is the conception that ticketing for speeding is merely a “revenue generator.”  Whether this is the case or not (and if it is, speeding is still a dangerous behavior that should be discouraged), any attempts to “stick it to the man” by going over the speed limit only endanger others.  Never let anger at law enforcement divert your mind from the reason for it:  to keep you and others safe.

10.  Verbal Abuse

Have you ever been spurred on to driving greatness by a yell of, “GET OFF THE ROAD, IDIOT!” out the window at you?  Of course not.  No one has.  Do not try this.  People have been followed and assaulted by angry drivers.

11.  Roadway Congestion

The driver caught in a traffic jam is like a caged animal:  they are more easily provoked because they cannot walk away (except literally, in this case) from the situation.  While you cannot avoid other drivers in a traffic jam, you can do your part by keeping a cool head in spite of the viscosity of traffic.

12. Mood

If you’re mad before you get on the road, driving will probably not help matters one bit.  Anger inhibits a person’s ability to think clearly and respond to others equitably.  Before ramming into a telephone pole because it looked at you funny, consider calming yourself before going for a drive.

13. Invasion of Space

No one likes to have their bubble burst, especially when they’re trying to drive.  This is what makes behaviors like tailgating, lane drifting, and merging without a blinker so maddening.  When you’re on the road, try to avoid maneuvers that intrude upon another person’s ability to focus on the road, and not you.

14. Noise

Inescapable annoying circumstances
are immeasurably more annoying by that token.  Extraneous noise may not infect a person with road rage on its own merits, but it can aggravate existing cases.  Don’t contribute needlessly to foul moods by liberality with your car horn or overly loud music.

15. Temperature

It makes perfect metaphorical sense that high temperatures should make people hot under the collar.  Entrapment in a hot vehicle is not conducive to patience.  Thus, when driving in hot weather, you should pack plenty of water (and maybe some cold packs to put under a hat).

16. Hypocrisy

Eighty-eight percent of drivers claimed to have experienced aggressive driving at the hands of another motorist.  However, 60% admitted to their own guilt in that arena.  Recalling one’s own faux pas makes it easier to forgive them in others and, thus, to keep one’s cool in a tight situation.  People will always be rude, but that doesn’t mean you need to respond to it in kind.

However, when another person’s rudeness leads you or a loved one to serious injury from which you cannot seem to recover due to high expenses, uncooperative insurers, etc., you are more than justified in seeking the help of a personal injury attorney.  For aggressive driving accidents occurring in the Salt Lake City area, Christensen & Hymas offer the best guidance with compassion and integrity.  To learn more, call their office at (801) 506-0800.

Image courtesy of Miquel C.

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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