How Do You Know If You’re an Aggressive Driver?

Driving can be a stressful task at the best of times, and many find it particularly taxing in high-traffic areas or under tight schedules. Some people get into the habit of responding to this stress by driving aggressively.

While this is understandable, it’s also dangerous. It’s important to be able to identify the impulse to drive aggressively and the reasons it arises, so that you can avoid aggressive driving and stay safe on the road.

This blog post will explore the hallmarks of aggressive driving, its impact on road safety, the principles of defensive driving, and how to recognize the signs of aggressive driving (both by others and by yourself).

What Exactly is Aggressive Driving?

Aggressive driving encompasses a range of unsafe, deliberate driving behaviors. They can include speeding, tailgating, weaving through traffic, running red lights, and road rage incidents.

Aggressive driving is more than just occasional impatience; it’s a pattern of behavior that reflects a disregard for the law and for the well-being of other road users.

The key identifier of aggressive driving (rather than other types of traffic offenses) is an encroachment on another road user in a dangerous way. If you drive dangerously, but in a way that does not crowd or intimidate other drivers, this is unlikely to be regarded as aggressive driving.

How Does Aggressive Driving Cause Accidents?

Aggressive driving significantly increases the likelihood of car and truck accidents.

Speeding reduces the driver’s ability to react to sudden changes on the road, while tailgating leaves little room for error if the car in front stops suddenly. Weaving in and out of lanes can confuse other drivers and lead to collisions. Running red lights or stop signs creates dangerous situations for pedestrians and other vehicles.

Additionally, the hostile nature of aggressive driving often leads to altercations between drivers. These events are becoming an increasingly big problem; according to a study conducted by The Trace, there were 3,095 people shot in road rage incidents between 2014 and 2023.

What Is Defensive Driving?

The term “defensive driving” originated in the United States in the mid-20th century as part of safety programs designed to reduce accidents and improve driving skills. It was popularized by the National Safety Council, which began offering defensive driving courses in the 1960s to teach drivers how to anticipate and respond to potential hazards on the road.

It essentially involves:

  • Using proactive techniques to prevent accidents
  • Being aware of potential hazards
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Anticipating the actions of other drivers.

Defensive drivers prioritize safety over speed and are always prepared to react calmly to unexpected situations. By adopting defensive driving habits, drivers can reduce the risk of accidents and contribute to a safer driving environment for everyone.

Signs of Aggressive Driving

Recognizing aggressive driving behaviors is the first step to curbing them. Common signs include:

  • Excessive speeding: Driving well above the speed limit. Remember, the default speed limit in New York City is 25 mph; unless it’s otherwise stated, you need to drive more slowly than this while you’re within the city limits.
  • Tailgating: Following other vehicles too closely.
  • Frequent and sudden lane changes: Weaving in and out of traffic without signaling properly.
  • Ignoring traffic signals: Running red lights or stop signs.
  • Hostile gestures or communication: Yelling, honking aggressively, or making rude gestures.
  • Racing other vehicles: Competing with other drivers on the road.

Legal Consequences of Aggressive Driving

According to the NHTSA, the rules against aggressive driving can be found under both specific and general traffic laws. The agency notes that it is “challenging” to define aggressive driving precisely, and that it may arise in the form of various types of offenses, such as:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Following too closely
  • Running red lights
  • Making unsafe lane changes
  • Driving “faster than prevailing speeds.”

In New York, there is no specific offense called “aggressive driving,” and so there is no specific penalty for engaging in it. The applicable punishment will depend on the type of aggression a driver displays, and may include:

  • Points on your driving license
  • Revocation of your driving license for a period of time
  • Fines
  • Jail time (in the most serious cases).

You’ll also face increased motor insurance premiums if you’re convicted of an aggressive driving infraction.

It should be noted that many people use the terms “aggressive driving” and “reckless driving” interchangeably. Unlike aggressive driving, reckless driving is a specific category of offense with specific punishments attached to it. Per the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) Section 1212, reckless driving is any operation of a vehicle in “a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway.” It’s a misdemeanor offense which comes with a jail sentence of up to 30 days for first-time offenders.

What to Do If You Fall Victim to an Aggressive Driver

Encountering an aggressive driver can be a frightening and stressful experience. It’s crucial to know how to stay safe and avoid escalating the situation, such as by:

  • Staying calm: Keep your emotions in check and avoid reacting with anger or aggression.
  • Refusing to engage: Avoid making eye contact, gesturing, or retaliating.
  • Maintaining a safe distance: Increase the distance between you and the aggressive driver. If they are tailgating, safely change lanes or allow them to pass.
  • Reporting the incident: If the aggressive driver poses a serious threat, call the police and provide a description of the vehicle and driver.
  • Documenting the at-fault driver’s details: If it is safe to do so, take note of the aggressive driver’s license plate number, vehicle make and model, and any distinguishing features of the car.

Making Improvements on the Road

Aggressive driving is a dangerous practice that puts everyone on the road at risk. By understanding what constitutes aggressive driving, its impact on road safety, and the principles of defensive driving, you can assess your own driving habits and make the necessary changes.

If you need an attorney who can help you with a road accident issue, you need look no further than Tucker Lawyers. We’ve been helping injured New Yorkers secure the compensation they need for decades, and we can do the same for you. Call us today on (516) 399-2364 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule your free initial consultation.

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Managing Attorney John. J. Tucker, Esq.

John has personally handled thousands of clients who were victims of another’s negligence and fights relentlessly for their rights. John enjoys bringing closure to a client’s matter so that the injured party can move forward with their life. His background enables him to evaluate complex liability related claims and bring resolution to claims in a record time frame. [ Attorney Bio ]

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