color side bar  Aggressive Driving
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spacer [head:] Officials Pledge Action Against Aggressive Drivers

Has your daily commute become an exercise in highway survival? Traffic safety and law enforcement organizations are renewing efforts to identify and penalize aggressive drivers—those who speed, tailgate, zip from lane to lane, flash headlights in frustration, and engage in other dangerous driving practices. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as "the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property"—a traffic and not a criminal offense like road rage. The group points out, however, that aggressive driving can easily escalate into a more violent incident.

Statistics compiled in 1997 by NHTSA and the American Automobile Association show that almost 13,000 people have been injured or killed since 1990 in crashes caused by aggressive driving. According to a NHTSA survey, more than 60 percent of drivers consider unsafe driving by others, including speeding, a major personal threat to themselves and their families. About 30 percent of respondents said they felt their safety was threatened in the last month, while 67 percent felt this threat during the last year.

This concern from responsible motorists has prompted a pledge from law enforcement to put the breaks on aggressive driving. Respondents in the NHTSA survey rated increased police enforcement as the most effective and acceptable way to reduce unsafe and illegal driving. At the least, offenders can expect more police stops, more frequent ticketing, higher fines, and possible license suspension for repeat violations. Other measures may include cameras at red light intersections, unmanned radar speed displays, enforcement from aircraft, and "tip lines" for witnesses to report aggressive driving.

You can take steps to ensure the holidays are safe and sensible for you, your family and friends. Responsible hosting of holiday parties is particularly effective in keeping impaired drivers off the road, and can limit your liability. NHTSA recommends:

In the meantime, you can do your part to keep our roadways safer: NHTSA offers these suggestions:

  • Keep your cool in traffic; be patient and courteous to other drivers.
  • Correct any of your own unsafe driving habits that are likely to endanger, antagonize or provoke other motorists. Fifty percent of those surveyed admitted they had driven recklessly, had sped, and/or engaged in other unsafe or illegal driving behaviors.
  • Reduce your stress on the road: allow plenty of time to get where you're going, consider changing your schedule to avoid the worst congestion, listen to relaxing music or books on tape.
  • Support your community's law enforcement efforts to identify and penalize aggressive drivers.
  • If your community has a witness "tip line," report the incidents of dangerous driving you see.
  • If a hostile motorist tries to pick a fight, do not make eye contact, and do not respond.

A substantial number of the approximately 6,800,000 crashes that occur in the United States each year are estimated to be caused by aggressive driving. Help spread the word in your city or town, get behind your community's law enforcement efforts, and make a difference with your own safe, sensible driving.