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What counts as aggressive driving and why is it so dangerous?

We’ve all had the experience of dealing with an aggressive driver. They follow too close, dart in and out of their lane and jockey for position the entire time they’re driving. It can be maddening and a little bit frightening.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property." Its Fatal Accident Report System (FARS) indicates that between 2003 and 2007, aggressive driving was a factor in 56% of all fatal crashes.

According to an American Automobile Association review of SARS data, the following behaviors were taken to indicate that a crash might have involved an aggressive driver:

  • Operating in an erratic, reckless, careless or negligent manner
  • Suddenly changing speeds
  • Improper following
  • Erratic lane changes
  • Improper turns
  • Illegal driving on the shoulder, median, sidewalk or ditch
  • Passing when prohibited
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Failure to obey traffic control devices or officers
  • Failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
  • Failure to observe warnings or instructions
  • Lack of signaling
  • Speeding/racing/driving too fast for conditions

One of the most common forms of aggressive driving is simply speeding. According to NHTSA, speeding is a factor in about a third of all fatal traffic crashes, making it the most common cause -- even more common than intoxicated driving.

Speed limits are much higher than they used to be, which makes speeding even more inexplicable. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that merely having raised the speed limits over the past 25 years has cost the U.S. almost 37,000 lives.

What excuses do people make for aggressive driving?

According to NHTSA, the most common contributing factor to aggressive driving is traffic congestion, which can prompt certain people to speed, change lanes frequently or become angry at other drivers. Other people blame lateness for their aggressive driving. And, the anonymity of driving can impede restraints on behavior.

NHTSA also says that aggressive driving could be on the rise because there are more drivers on the road than ever before.

What are your experiences with aggressive drivers? Have you seen an aggressive driver cause a crash? What can people do to stay safe from aggressive driving?

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