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How to Handle an Aggressive Driver

Here’s how to stay safe by recognizing what triggers aggressive behavior and quickly diffusing dangerous situations.

One of the worst sounds in the world has to be the jarring blast a car horn, rudely interrupting your duet with the radio.

How you react to honking from an aggressive driver matters, considering that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

Here’s how to stay safe by recognizing what triggers aggressive behavior and quickly diffusing dangerous situations.

What is aggressive behavior?

Aggressive behavior typically looks like blatant disregard for other people on the road and is often called road rage. Any behavior that is reckless or unlawful could be considered aggressive.

Aggressive drivers sometimes use rude gestures or threatening behaviors to express anger about something you have done or something that they think you have done. No matter the trigger, do what you can to prevent escalation.

Prevention starts with you

As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to aggressive drivers, one of the best defenses is to avoid behaviors that others perceive as aggressive, as this will trigger aggressive reactions. Consider the following list of aggressive driving triggers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

  • Tailgating
  • Cutting off other vehicles
  • Not using turn signals
  • Cursing other drivers
  • Speeding
  • Honking
  • Flashing headlights
  • Brake-checking
  • Texting

Chances are you've been guilty of at least one of these behaviors so, instead of feeling defensive, work on improving in the future.

Apologize when necessary

Have you ever followed another car too closely without realizing it? Have you braked too hard when a light changed? You may not have purposely angered someone on the road, but these actions are triggers that can agitate others.

If you know your driving may have caused a problem, a simple "I'm sorry" can make all the difference. Just wave and mouth the words — taking the high road eases tensions before emotions escalate.

Other methods

When faced with an aggressive driver, AAA recommends that you:

  • Avoid eye contact
  • Refrain from hand gestures
  • Give the aggressor space
  • Remain in your vehicle
  • Contact emergency services if necessary

Slow down, change lanes and, if necessary, exit the road to a safe location away from the aggressor. People use firearms in 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, so stay safe and don’t engage. You never know what the other person has in their car, or how little it might take to elicit an extreme reaction.

Getting behind the wheel is a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly. By practicing these safe driving tips, you can avoid being an aggressive driver or triggering others to drive aggressively. You can also keep yourself safe if another driver is determined to start trouble. This message is proudly sponsored by WMC Tri-State Medical Network.

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