Road rage is not just a news headline or something that two friends laugh about. It is a significant issue in America that has gradually gotten worse over the last decade. Consider the following 2016 statistics:
• 66% of accidents that end in fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
• 37% of aggressive driving cases involved the use of a firearm or other weapon.
• The largest demographic of road rage are males under the age of 19.
• 50% of drivers who are targets of road rage respond aggressively.
• In 2016 alone, road rage led to 200+ murders and over 12,000 injuries.
What is Defensive Driving?
Although a defensive driving course is available (and, in some cases, mandatory) in all 50 states, most drivers do not fully understand what it is or what it means. For the average motorist, the term defensive driving is a responsive action, and an instant reflex to the actions of others. For instance, if someone else is driving recklessly on the road or commits an action that is offensive, then the driver or drivers on the receiving end either respond in an opposite action or in kind. This mentality is what escalates a situation and inevitably leads to a collision or accident.
Defensive driving, however, is a proactive approach to driving in which someone operating a vehicle anticipates the lack of good judgment of other drivers and, in turn, creates a safe driving condition for him or herself, passengers in the car and other drivers. Defensive driving saves lives, makes the best use of time or space on the road, and minimizes the effects of the reckless behaviors of other drivers. Thus, defensive drivers remain calm and drive responsibly regardless of what everyone else is doing on the road.
Defensive People: Accidents Waiting to Happen
In terms of mentality, there is a difference between defensive driving and defensive people. People who are considered defensive are those who get angry or lose their temper when another driver commits an error either accidentally or intentionally while operating a vehicle. Some of the most common examples of this would include:
• A driver who runs a red light.
• Getting cut off by a driver who suddenly veers into a lane.
• Getting behind someone who is driving slowly in the left lane of a four-lane road.
• A driver who is tailgating.
• A driver who is dangerously speeding 20 to 30 miles above the speed limit.
While defensive driving seeks to reduce the risk of escalating the problem, defensive drivers get angry and either ‘seek revenge’ or ‘correct the problem.’
Here’s a common scenario:
Mary is driving 90 miles an hour on the Interstate. The speed limit is 70 miles per hour. Mary is blowing by everybody on the road until she gets behind John who is in the left lane. She can’t get around John because a semi-truck is next to John in the right lane. Mary gets frustrated and starts tailgating John, honking her horn, and flashing her lights. John feels that Mary is dangerous when she drives at 90 miles per hour. Rather, than speed up and get out of Mary’s way, he decides to stay neck and neck with the semi-truck so that she cannot pass. Both drivers become irritated and start losing their tempers. In his rage, John taps on the brakes to get Mary to stop tailgating him. Mary does not respond quickly enough and slams into the back of John’s car.
Needless to say, a serious wreck has just occurred that involves Mary, John, the semi-truck, and two other cars. In this scenario, it’s obvious that both John and Mary both became defensive and responded inappropriately. The collision could have been avoided if both drivers had stopped being so defensive.
Defensive Driving Saves Lives
Safe drivers have the ability to both anticipate and respond appropriately to any situation on the road regardless of the action or attitudes of others. Every one of us find ourselves in driving situations that are less than ideal. How we respond to these situations, however, can mean the difference between life and death. Being ‘done wrong’, does not give us an excuse to practice revenge or correct the other driver. The best course of action is to withdraw from any temptation to escalate a situation. Take a deep breath and realize that nothing is worse than putting yourself and others in danger.