Drive defensively, not aggressively. Aggressive driving can refer to any display of aggression by a driver. It's often used to describe more extreme acts of physical assault that result from disagreements between drivers. "Road Rage" is a term believed to be coined by the American media, originally to describe the most violent events.

Although the media currently seem to refer to all aggressive driving as road rage, the New York State Police have pointed out that there is an important difference. "Road Rage", such as using the vehicle as a weapon or physically assaulting a driver or their vehicle, is NOT aggressive driving. Such acts are criminal offenses, and there are laws to deal with these violent crimes.

Aggressive Driving Seems to be Increasing
Part of the problem may be the roads themselves. The roads are more crowded. The number of vehicle miles driven each year is up 35% in the past ten years, and there are more vehicles on the roads. Yet the number of miles of roadway has increased by only 1%. Also, people are busier. Time is at a premium, and road congestion causes frustration.

According to the media, there are numerous events of aggressive driving or "road rage" on the public highways. There is growing concern among motorists about this problem.

Aggressive Driving may be characterized by the following traffic violations:

  • Excessive Speed
  • Frequent or Unsafe Lane Changes
  • Failure to Signal
  • Tailgating
  • Failure to Yield the Right of Way
  • Disregarding Traffic Controls
  • Impaired Driving

If you encounter an Aggressive Driver...
The New York State Police recommend these basic tips for dealing with an aggressive driver:

  • Remain calm
  • Keep your distance
  • Do not pass unless you have to
  • Change lanes once it is safe (don't jump lanes without looking)
  • If you cannot change lanes and an aggressive driver is behind you. stay where you are, maintain proper speed and do not respond with hostile gestures.
  • You may call 911 (or *911 from a cell phone) to report an aggressive or a driver you believe may be impaired.

(Of special note: If you witness an act of aggressive driving, the police cannot issue a ticket simply because you've gotten a plate number. A police officer must witness the infraction and positively identify the driver of the vehicle in order to issue a ticket. However, if you travel a route on a regular basis and witness aggressive behavior at certain times, or all of the time, the State Police would be interested in knowing about the locations.)

 However, there are some basic things that you can do to reduce your chances of ever becoming involved in an aggressive driving or "road rage" incident:

  • First of all, observe common courtesy and consciously try to avoid actions which can provoke other drivers.
  • Secondly, take measures to reduce your own stress so that you are less likely to feel aggressive yourself.
  • You can also try to adjust your attitude about why other drivers are behaving the way they are.
  • Finally, keep your emotions in check and think about the consequences of your behavior before you react.

Be aware of actions that can provoke aggression
Motorists are advised to be patient and courteous to other drivers. You should correct any unsafe driving habits that may endanger, annoy or provoke other drivers. Be aware of actions that have resulted in violence in the past. Many of these actions are simply eliminated by practicing common courtesy. Others are behaviors which are, or may be considered, offensive. Avoid behaviors which are likely to provoke aggression, a few are:

  • Obscene or offensive gestures
  • Talking on a car or cell phone phone
  • Bumper stickers, slogans or vanity license plates that may be considered offensive.
  • Eye contact
  • Aggressive tailgating
  • Aggressive horn use
  • Aggressive headlight use

Use common courtesy and be aware of how you're driving

  • Lane blocking:  Don't block the passing lane on multiple lane highways. Allow vehicles to pass you.
  • Tailgating:  Maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
  • Signal use:  Don't change lanes without using your signal; change lanes without cutting another driver off'; turn your signal off after changine lanes.
  • Horn use:  Use your horn sparingly.
  • Failure to turn:  In New York State, right turns are allowed after a complete stop for a red light unless an intersection is marked otherwise. Avoid the right lane if you are not turning right.
  • Parking: Be considerate in how you park, in opening your car door and when backing out of a parking space.
  • Headlight use:  Keep headlights on low beam, except where lighting conditions are poor.
  • Merging:  When traffic permits, move out of the right hand acceleration lane of a freeway to allow vehicles easier access from on-ramps.
  • Blocking traffic:  If you are driving a cumbersome or slow moving vehicle, pull over when possible to allow traffic to pass you. Do not block the road to stop and have a conversation with another driver or a pedestrian.
  • Alarms: Be sure you know how to turn off the anti-theft alarm on any vehicle you are driving. If you are purchasing an alarm, buy one that turns off automatically after a short time.

Reduce your stress, adjust your attitude and keep your cool in order to think before you react.