Aggressive Driving – Some observations from the peanut gallery

Close Call... Don't Drive Angry / Baynard County
Close Call… Don’t Drive Angry / Baynard County (Photo credit: Phil’s 1stPix)

I often hear pundits decrying the aggressiveness of drivers.  It is hard to disagree with the premise that aggressive driving is bad, but the picture isn’t as simple as the pundits would have you believe.

For one thing, not all aggressive driving is “actively aggressive”.  The pundits rarely discuss the passively aggressive drivers, like the folks that drive in passing lanes.  They also often fail to look for root causes for the driving aggression.

I have been thinking about this issue for a long time and think I have a few suggestions on how to reduce aggressive driving.  My suggestions are in the form of tips and I have organized these suggestions around four possibly overlapping groups of people … 1) the aggressive drivers themselves, 2) traffic planners, 3) other drivers and 4) law makers.  There probably isn’t much new here, and I hope it doesn’t appear to be condescending, but aggressive driving is an issue that has been bugging me for years so I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation.

Tips for the aggressive driver

  1. Try to leave a bit early to relieve some of the worry of being late.
  2. Remember to be courteous.
  3. Remember that you are not the only one that has something important to do.
  4. Try to remember that the other driver is not trying to bother you…they have somewhere to go too.
  5. Remember that the other driver is a person with family and friends.
  6. Remember that the other driver has their own problems to deal with.
  7. When you are annoyed, try deep breathing and counting to 10 … your mother told you about this and she was right.
  8. Before you get angry, try to think about how ashamed you are going to feel after acting aggressively.
  9. Don’t tailgate … it won’t make anyone else go faster, but it might make someone else become aggressive too and the only thing worse than having one driver get aggressive is to have more than one driver get aggressive.
  10. Don’t pass on the right (same reason as above)
  11. Use your turn signals properly…don’t just flick them on at the last minute…let people know what you are going to do before you do it.
  12. When someone signals that they want to pull into your lane, don’t speed up to fill the gap.

Tips for traffic planners

  1. Go for the green wave…create traffic patterns where a well posted speed will allow you to hit most of the green lights between source and destination.  This one suggestion would, in my mind, reduce 90% of the speeding on our city streets.
  2. Use flashing-cycles in off-hours rather than “demand lights” to improve traffic flow.  Demand lights result in a single car stopping often large volumes of drivers and usually result in getting the stopped traffic “out-of-sync” with any normal traffic flow (see green-wave above).
  3. Reduce suburban sprawl.  People with a shorter distance to commute have less to get aggressive about.
  4. Improve the transit system.
  5. Implement intelligent traffic calming … don’t just install speed bumps.  Figure out why people need to go fast and deal with the root cause.
  6. Make cities more “bike friendly”.
  7. Stop making neighborhoods where you “can’t get there from here”.  If you want to keep traffic out of a neighborhood, make the alternative route more attractive to drivers.

Tips for other drivers

  1. Pay attention to your driving.  If you are out for a leisurely drive, check your mirrors frequently to make sure that you are not impeding traffic.
  2. A simple wave when you make a mistake is often enough to sooth an aggressive driver’s feelings.  Don’t “flip-the-bird”, no matter whether the other driver deserves it or not.  If they are on the edge, you might push them over and it is better to be safe than sorry.
  3. Keep up with the general flow of the traffic.  Speed limits are important for safety, but if the general flow of the traffic is above the speed limit, you are actually safer to increase your speed to respect that average speed than you are to insist on maintaining the limit and forcing everyone else to pass you (often unsafely).
  4. Remember, you also are not the only driver on the road.  Passive aggression is still aggression:
    • If you drive in the passing lane when you are not passing, you are being passively aggressive to everyone that is behind you – regardless of whether you are doing the speed limit or not.
    • If you enter an intersection that you will not be able to clear before the light turns red you are being passively aggressive.
    • If you drive in someone else’s blind spot or you drive beside another car on a multi-lane road you are being passively aggressive.  If you aren’t passing, pull in behind the person on your right.
    • If you don’t learn how to merge when getting onto the highway you are being passively aggressive … don’t stop on an on-ramp
    • If you don’t change lanes properly you are being passively aggressive.  Improve your lane changing abilities …  Use your signals, your mirrors and do proper shoulder checks.
    • If you change lanes correctly, but  you pull in-front of someone that is going faster and then slow down, you are being passively aggressive…wait until they go by before pulling out into the passing lane.
  5. If someone is driving very aggressively, and you can do it safely, take down their license number and call it in.

Tips for law makers

  1. Ban tinted glass in the drivers compartment…if everyone can identify you, it is less inviting to be aggressive.
  2. Make road speeds match the safety conditions of the road.
  3. Clearly mark passing lane and make more of them.
  4. Create more HOV lanes (High Occupancy Vehicle).
  5. Ticket aggressive drivers … both actively aggressive drivers and passively aggressive drivers (see above).  Use traffic cameras for speeders and red-light runners and use the new revenues from these streams to target passive aggression on the roads.

I know that these tips won’t stop aggression entirely, but I think that opening the discussion up to more than just “speeding bad, slowness good” might help us reduce it to a reasonable level.


One thought on “Aggressive Driving – Some observations from the peanut gallery

  1. I have also written about the passive aggressive driver and I feel these people are a much bigger problem than aggressive driving. In fact I believe they cause most if not all of the aggressive driving.

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