Aggressive Driving

BINGHAMTON, NY - The New York State Police refer to aggressive driving as someone who "operates a motor vehicle in a selfish, bold or pushy manner, without regard for the rights or safety of the other users of the streets and highways." You may have heard the term Road Rage to describe these behaviors; however, the New York State Police have determined there is a distinct difference between the two. Road Rage involves using the vehicle as a weapon or physically assaulting a driver of the vehicle. Such acts are criminal offences and are punishable by law. Aggressive driving is much different. It can be considered using excessive speed, frequent or unsafe lane changes, failure to signal, tailgating, failure to yield the right of way, disregarding traffic control signals or driving while impaired.

Aggressive driving seems to be increasing everywhere. It is thought that increasing road congestion is part of the problem. The number of vehicle miles driven each year seems to be going up however the number of miles of roadways has stayed relatively the same. When roads are busier, frustration is most likely to occur.

There are, however, some basic rules of the road that you can follow in order to reduce your chance of ever becoming involved with an aggressive driver:

  • Observe common courtesy. This means do not block lanes, tailgate, change lanes without signaling, excessively use your horn, take up more than one parking space, use your high beams for oncoming traffic or block traffic.
  • Consciously avoid actions which can provoke other drivers. Do not make gestures to other drivers. They can be misinterpreted. Avoid using your cell phone while driving. Data shows that aggressive drivers are particularly irritated by fender-benders with motorists who were talking on their phone. In New York State it is illegal to use a hand held mobile phone while driving. Refrain from displaying bumper stickers that may be considered offensive.
  • Take measures to reduce your stress so that you are less likely to feel aggressive yourself. Allow yourself enough time to arrive safely at your destination. Keep your vehicle in good working order to avoid the stress of a breakdown. If you are unsure of where you are going, plan your route and have a map available. Simple things such as having enough windshield wiper fluid and sunglasses can reduce stress as well.
  • Try to adjust your attitude about why other drivers are behaving the way they are. Give other drivers the benefit of the doubt?we all make mistakes. Don't assume that the other driver's actions were intentional.
  • Keep your emotions in check and think about the consequences of your behavior before you react. Aggressive driving behavior could result in serious injury or even death to yourself or someone else. Don't let an impulsive action ruin the rest of your life.

If you do find yourself in the midst of an aggressive driver be sure to remain calm and keep your distance. Do not pass unless you have to. Be sure to change lanes once it is safe to, and if you cannot change lanes and an aggressive driver is behind you, stay where you are and maintain the proper speed and do not respond with hostile gestures. You may call 911 to report an aggressive driver or a driver you believe may be impaired.

For more information on aggressive driving, call Christine Muss, Traffic Safety Coordinator for the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.2807.