Is Aggressive Driving Worth the Risk?

  • Published
  • By Rod Krause
  • 5 BW/SEG
Traffic is going nowhere fast, but the hotshot behind you just has to pass. The minute there's enough room, he or she is next to you, and because you're a safe driver and allow some distance between yourself and the vehicle ahead of you, there's just enough space for the hotshot to squeeze in ahead of you. Oh sure, you get a cursory blink of the turn signal, or maybe not, just as the vehicle pulls in. 

Most drivers are reasonable people, though we stew as we watch the hotshot do it again to the vehicle in front of us. Of course, when you get to the next light, the hotshot is just a couple of cars ahead, having risked an accident for a 40-foot advantage. Of course, the hotshot's windows are down and the music is deafening, even two car-lengths away. I see this every day, driving to and from work, on a somewhat busy four-lane divided highway, with a posted speed limit of 70 mph. At times, the traffic can be referred to as the "Minot 500." I ask co-workers and myself, "What's the hurry?" Are they late for work? Probably not. It must be the fresh pot of coffee or doughnuts waiting for them at the office. 

I used to think it was the anonymity of being in a vehicle that enabled some people to be so rude on the road. I think that's still true, but it's been worsened by how it's now cool to drive aggressively. How can it not be, when all we get in TV commercials are attractive young people tearing around in high-performance sports cars or SUVs as if there's no one else on the road? 

Aggressive driving isn't just rude. The fundamental point of ethics is not to hurt others, and aggressive drivers hurt others. Rudeness on the road causes anger, and other drivers not only are hurt by being needlessly angered, but they also get aggressive in response. The whole thing feeds on itself, because then still other drivers are affected. 

Ethical behavior isn't just about how you conduct yourself face-to-face. Being encased in three or four tons of metal doesn't remove you from the ethical sphere, not even if you're riding high in your supposedly super-safe SUV, seeing yourself as the coolest driver around. You still owe others consideration. 

Part of the trouble is that hurting others seems to have been rethought over the past decade. It used to be that upsetting people counted as hurting them. Now, even with our obsession about political correctness, it seems that in practice, not hurting people is thought of as just not physically damaging them. Upsetting them has become purely a matter of legality and liability, something for the courts. That's not good enough, but I don't see things improving anytime soon. 

How can you avoid such drivers? First, don't become another aggressive driver yourself. Keep your emotions in check. Don't take your frustrations out on other drivers. Plan your trip and allow enough time for delays. Focus on your own driving. Yelling, pounding on the steering wheel, and honking your horn won't make traffic move any faster.  Next, avoiding the dangers of aggressive drivers: First, be a cautious, considerate driver. Don't create situations that may provoke another motorist. Don't tailgate or flash your lights at another driver. If you're in the left lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let the driver pass you. If you encounter an angry driver, don't make matters worse by triggering a confrontation. Try to avoid eye contact, steer clear, and give the angry driver plenty of room. Don't make inappropriate hand or facial gestures. Always remember, if you're concerned for your safety, get a vehicle description, a license plate number, and call 9-1-1. 

If an aggressive driver is involved in a crash farther down the road, stop a safe distance from the crash scene, wait for the police to arrive, and report the driving behavior that you witnessed. 

Remember, your car isn't a tank, it's not bulletproof, and the truly aggressive driver may follow you home. Is an impulsive action worth ruining the rest of your life?