Our Biggest Fear as Drivers:
Aggressive driving and road rage is on the rise and according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) it is one, if not the top concern for many drivers today. AAA reported that, "at least 1,500 people a year are seriously injured or killed in senseless traffic disputes."
The following includes excerpts from a report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Characteristics of Aggressive Driving:
- Following too closely
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Weaving through traffic
- Running stop lights and signs
Graduating From Traffic Violation to Criminal Offense:
An important distinction is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation, while road rage, aside from the yelling and gesticulating, is a criminal offense.
Contributing Factors To Aggressive Driving:
- Sociologists suggests it is due to the breakdown in our society's sense of community and a disintegration of shared values.
- Psychologists point to the intoxicating combination of power and anonymity provided by motor vehicles.
- Traffic engineers tend to believe the problem is due to inconsistent driving speeds among travelers.
Many otherwise law-abiding citizens often justify speeding when running late, almost as they would a medical emergency. Speeding because one is running late to pick up a waiting child or getting an elderly parent to a doctor's appointment is often deemed as okay in the minds of even some of the safest drivers.
The anonymity for some may provoke antisocial behavior unseen in other normal interaction they experience with others. Combine this with having the power of a motor vehicle and the knowledge that it is unlikely they will ever be seen again by those they offend and the result can be extreme rudeness and even turn an otherwise nice person into a dangerous, raging individual.
Disregard for Others and for the Law:
It does appear that civility and respect for authority has decreased, the trend epitomized by the phrase, "I'm just looking out for number one."
Habitual Or Clinical Behavior:
Occasional episodes of aggressive driving might occur in response to specific situations, such as speeding and changing lanes abruptly when late for an important appointment, when it is not the driver's normal behavior.
Clearly, it is a matter of degree and not all anger is uncontrolled, or even inappropriate, that is, it is not the anger, but what a person does about it that matters (e.g., anger that motivates a person to call the police when encountered on the road by an obviously impaired or dangerously aggressive driver). However, chronic anger, habitual or persistent aggressive driving, and especially a pattern of confrontation on the road, must be considered manifestations of pathology, in addition to violations of the law.