Understanding Aggressive Driving

When teen drivers take to the road, they encounter many kinds of motorists. Unfortunately, a few are impatient, annoying, hot-tempered, or even dangerous. Some are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some are dealing with their own emotional issues. For some, there’s a temptation to take their problems out on others, risking lives in the process. 

"Aggressive driving is distracted driving on steroids,” warns Roy Bavaro, Executive Director, National Foundation for Teen Safe Driving. “Tragic crashes generally occur when we are distracted and not fully focused on the task of driving,” 

Crash statistics support this assertion. According to AAA, aggressive driving can be a factor in up to 56% of fatal crashes.

Rational, Not Emotional

It’s vital for teen drivers to avoid aggressive drivers rather than engage them. Newer drivers lack experience with aggressive driving and road rage. When caught off-guard, they sometimes respond to aggression with more aggression. Reacting emotionally, rather than rationally, escalates the situation.

Say you see a speeding vehicle weaving in and out of traffic. At one point, it almost sideswipes another vehicle. There’s a natural impulse to want to stop this behavior somehow. But, realistically, you can’t. Sometimes, a dangerous driver turns others into distracted drivers. For example, an otherwise safe driver might rear-end someone when distracted by the antics of an aggressive driver.

There’s a basic lesson important for drivers of all ages — you only have control over yourself. You cannot control others.

Let Go of the Anger

For teen drivers, learning to control one’s emotions is part of becoming a responsible adult. Drinking and driving don’t mix; explosive anger and driving don’t mix either.

Bavaro suggests an alternative approach. “Stay calm, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if 'getting even' is more important than safely getting home,” he noted.

You might wish you could take control of the steering wheel from an aggressive driver, but you can’t. Honk only for legitimate defensive driving reasons. Assess the situation in a focused yet calm way. Steer your vehicle out of harm’s way. In doing so, you’ll better protect you and your precious cargo — your passengers. Consider these additional tips for dealing with road rage and aggressive drivers.

Call on Law Enforcement when Necessary

If you are being followed, or you believe the motorist is an ongoing threat to others, notify law enforcement. The professionals have the training, experience, and authority to handle dangerous drivers. They also have the tools to deal with road rage and other acts of aggression.

Also, don’t engage with an angry motorist at the scene of an accident. Call 911 and keep your distance until help arrives. 

Don't forget that some aggressive drivers are operating their vehicles while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Impaired drivers are often impulsive, making them even more dangerous.

Prepare Ahead of Time

Think through a possible encounter with an aggressive driver before it ever happens. Commit to a calm, reasoned reaction well before you ever experience the problem out on the road.

To help yourself be better prepared to deal with aggressive drivers, look to Aceable for up-to-date online driver's education courses. What you learn just might end up saving your life one day.