Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

Author: Attorney Kathleen Smith (Llewellyn-Duncan)

Aggressive driving and road rage. We are all susceptible to feelings of frustration and impatience when driving. And that can affect our driving. After all, we are busy people with jobs, kids, errands, family, pets, and it can be tempting to think that if we just got to our destination a few minutes quicker, we'd be happier. (More about that later). But we shouldn't let the urge turn into habit. Road rage kills. And the fact is that acting on road rage can be a criminal offense, while "aggressive driving" is a traffic offense.

Aggressive driving involves behavior such as speeding, improper or excessive lane changing, and tailgating. We've all seen it. And often the driver who darts in and out of lanes in order to maintain a high speed often ends up at the same red light as the patient, careful driver! When drivers make lane changes abruptly or without signaling, that is also considered aggressive driving. Aggressive drivers also pass without signaling or use the shoulder or emergency lane to get ahead. The NHTSA believes that, "The 'aggressive driver' fails to consider the human element involved. The anonymity of being behind the wheel gives aggressive drivers a false sense of control and power; therefore, they seldom take into account the consequences of their actions."(1)

When aggressive driving, including use of rude gestures or yelling, escalates to a driver intentionally running someone off the road, or getting out of a vehicle and assaulting another driver, the result can sometimes be deadly. Here are some suggestions for avoiding the trap of becoming an aggressive driver:

1. Leave plenty of time to get where you are going. If you are running late, you are more likely to be stressed and may fall into patterns of driving aggressively.

2. Check for possible traffic delays and choose an alternative route. We all get frustrated with unexpected delays (especially if we are running late) and you may be able to avoid this by checking the news or internet for traffic alerts.

3. Follow the law. Don't speed. Don't tailgate. Signal intended turns and lane changes.

4. Don't use your car as a weapon. And don't drive to "defend" your car as if it is your best friend. It's not about the car. It's often not even about you or your driver. The person that just passed you did not disrespect you or your car. Rather, he/she disrespected the laws of the road.

Don't let the aggressive drivers that are out there prevent you from getting where you want to go safely. Both you and the other driver are piloting several thousand pound missiles down the highway at a fast rate of speed. That's not the time to act out on your frustration or anger.

By the way, did you know that speeding doesn't really get you to your destination much faster? For instance, if you are taking a 30 mile trip on the highway and travel 70 miles an hour instead of 65, you'll get to your destination less than two minutes sooner. (2) At 75 instead of 65? Three minutes sooner. (3) So if you're driving only 10 miles away and you go 75 instead of 65 miles an hour? You save just one minute. (4) Assuming you don't get a ticket or cause an accident. So slow down, take a deep breath and drive safely.

About the Author: Kathleen Smith is a Fredericksburg car accident attorney with the law firm of Allen & Allen.


1- See (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/aggressive/Aggressive%20Web/sse_1.html).

2- 30 miles x (60 min/65 miles) = 27.69 minutes. 30 miles x (60 min/70miles) = 25.72 minutes. Difference = 1.97 minutes.

3- 30 miles x (60 min/65 miles) = 27.69 minutes. 30 miles x (60 min/75 miles) = 24 minutes. Difference = 3.69 minutes.

4- 10 miles x (60 min/65 miles) = 9.23 minutes. 10 miles x (60min/75 miles) = 8.00 minutes. Difference = 1.23 minutes.

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