Road Rage vs. Aggressive Driving
Although distracted drivers and negligent drivers are more common, a third growing cause of vehicle collisions is “road rage.” Some people confuse aggressive driving with road rage. They are both dangerous, but road rage is distinguished by the perpetrating driver’s specific intent to harm another person. It includes aggressive driving behaviors like tailgating, cutting off other drivers, blocking other drivers from merging into a lane, pushing drivers out of their lane of traffic, making rude gestures at other drivers, yelling at other drivers, slamming on one’s brakes with the intent to cause another driver to slam into your rear, pursuing other cars through traffic in order to engage in verbal or physical altercation, use of the horn or lights to scold other drivers, and brandishing firearms.
Such extreme behaviors may seem difficult to relate to, but we are all susceptible to road rage. According to a recent AAA Foundation study, nearly 9 in 10 drivers believe that aggressive drivers are either a “somewhat” or “very serious” threat to their personal safety. However, according to the same survey, “a substantial number of drivers” have engaged in some aggressive driving tactics themselves. 56% of accidents are caused by aggressive driving behaviors like tailgating, erratic lane changes, and illegal passing. Another study reviewed upwards of 10,000 road rage incidents and found that road rage led to 218 murders and 12,610 personal injury matters in seven years.
We are all subject to being a victim of road rage. A smart driver avoids the conflict in the first place.
How to Avoid Being a Victim
- Do not drive aggressively.
- Do not confront aggressive drivers.
- If you are accosted, remain calm. Do not engage.
- Do not forget the negative potential in even seemingly innocent drivers.
- Avoid behaviors that “punish” other drivers such as driving slowly to prevent others from driving too fast.
- If another driver angrily approaches you after a collision, lock your doors and windows and call the police. If you have reason to suspect the other driver is armed, get to a safe place immediately.
- Do not ever follow someone home.
- Do not ever get out of your car or approach the other driver during a tense or hostile moment. If you approach, do it in peace.
- If another driver is following you, lead them to the police.
Although Massachusetts does not have a specific anti-road rage law, it is illegal in this state to “accelerate at a high rate of speed in competition with another operator, whether or not there is an agreement to race, causing increased noise from skidding tires and amplified noise from racing engines.” This is punishable by up to 21 years and six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
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