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Aggressive Driving

Aggressive driving is extremely common among U.S. drivers. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 data, nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous 30 days.

Aggressive driving has increasingly become a major cause of concern for many road users. Learn more about aggressive driving risks and tips to avoid aggressive driving behaviors here.

Any unsafe driving behavior, performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety, can constitute aggressive driving. Examples of aggressive driving behaviors include:  
  • Speeding in heavy traffic
  • Tailgating
  • Cutting in front of another driver and then slowing down
  • Running red lights
  • Weaving in and out of traffic
  • Changing lanes without signaling
  • Blocking cars attempting to pass or change lanes
Using headlights or brakes to “punish” other drivers

Extreme cases of aggressive driving can escalate to road rage. Examples of road rage are:

  • Cursing and rude or obscene gestures
  • Throwing objects
  • Ramming
  • Sideswiping
  • Forcing a driver off the road

According to estimates by the AAA Foundation’s Annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, millions of drivers engaged in the following angry and aggressive behaviors in the 30 days before the survey, including:

  • Aggressive driving by switching lanes quickly/or very close behind another car:  26 percent (57 million drivers)
  • Made rude gestures or honked at other drivers: 32 percent (71 million drivers)
  • Driven 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway: 48 percent (106 million drivers)
  • Driven through a red light: 31 percent (68 million drivers)
  • Passed in front of a vehicle at less than a car length: 22 percent (49 million drivers)
  • Speeded up when another vehicle tried to overtake you: 25 percent (55 million drivers)
  • Followed vehicle in front of you closely to prevent another vehicle from merging in front of you: 34 percent (75 million drivers)
  • Merged into traffic even when another driver tries to close the gap between vehicles: 28 percent (62 million drivers)

Manage your behavior, manage your responses

You will see other drivers doing things that are illegal, inconsiderate and even incomprehensible.  Don’t respond personally. Most drivers are not thinking about their impact on you; they are just rushed, distracted or upset.

Follow the rules of the road:

  • Maintain adequate following distance.
  • Use turn signals.
  • Allow others to merge.
  • Use your high beams responsibly.
  • Tap your horn if you must (but no long blasts with accompanying hand gestures).
  • Be considerate in parking lots. Park in one spot, not across multiple spaces. Be careful not to hit cars next to you with your door.

Remaining calm and courteous behind the wheel lowers your risk of an unpleasant encounter – with another driver and with law enforcement.

Dealing with Confrontation

  • Avoid eye contact with angry drivers.
  • Don’t respond to aggression with aggression.
  • If you feel you are at risk, drive to a public place such as a police station, hospital or fire station.
  • When you park, allow room so you can pull out safely if someone approaches you aggressively.
  • Use your horn to attract attention but remain in your locked vehicle.
  • If you are confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible.
  • If you feel threatened, call 911.

Always Remember

  • Don’t Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle, and contact 9-1-1 if needed.