Avoiding Aggressive Drivers
As motorists, we’ve all seen and experienced aggressive driving on the road. Whether it’s someone cutting in front of you on the road, weaving in and out of traffic, tailgating, aggressive and reckless driving has become commonplace in our society. It became so prevalent that in the 90’s the National Transportation Safety Board coined the term “aggressive driving,” to label this category of dangerous on-the-road vehicular acts. “The category comprises following too closely, driving at excessive speeds, weaving through traffic, and running stop lights and signs, among other acts. Aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder…”
In a major intersection in Lafayette earlier this year, a motorist got out of his vehicle and reportedly slung an iron golf club at the driver’s door of a vehicle which stopped short in front of him. New Orleans Saints fans will never forget the 2016 killing of ex-Saint Will Smith in an apparent case of road rage. The aggressor in that case was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting Smith after a hit-and-run involving the two men happened earlier that evening. There are too many examples to cite. Aggressive driving is a problem in our community, throughout the country, Louisiana and right here in Acadiana.
At the Lafayette law firm of Joseph Joy and Associates, our personal injury team has counseled many clients who have been seriously injured due to the negligence of other drivers. Acts of aggression on the highway rises above the level of negligence to intentional and have no place in our society much less on the roadways. Motorists and passengers cannot control the actions of other drivers. That’s the aim of the law and traffic officials. But you can drive defensively and be ready to react should a negligent, reckless or aggressive driver comes your way.
The NHTSA report cited above outlined contributing causes of aggressive driving: traffic delays, running late, disregard for others, habitual or clinical behavior and disregard for the law. The report said that these factors seem to contribute to instances of speeding, weaving through traffic, running stop signs and lights, failing to yield to the right-of-way and tailgating.
The Joseph Joy legal team adds alcohol use to the list of contributing causes. A study published in the Journal of Studies of Drugs and Alcohol examined the relationship between the consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs and the experience of road-rage victimization and perpetration among drivers and nondrivers in the general population. It comes as little surprise that researchers concluded that “driving under the influence of alcohol or cannabis and being a problem drinker are associated with the perpetration of serious road-rage behavior, as well as experiencing road-rage victimization and perpetration.” Translation: never drive under the influence of alcohol or other substances and never let anyone operate a vehicle while impaired.
In the 2019 Louisiana Legislative session, a bill was filed aimed at punishing aggressive drivers. The proposed law put speeders, tailgaters or anyone who commits any one of a dozen poor driving habits under arrest if they commit 3 violations in a single trip. Unfortunately, that bill never became law.
What should you do if you happen to encounter Road Rage or aggressive driving?
The Mid-Atlantic States got together and developed a public safety initiative aimed at solving the problem of aggressive driving.
Don’t Engage. Get out of the way of an aggressive driver. Give them the space they are angling for even if it means delaying your arrival a bit. Let them pass you if that’s what they want. Pull to the side of the road if necessary. Let them go.
Don’t use your high beams while driving behind another car. The use of high beams could be misconstrued as a signal of disapproval.
Don’t panic. Stay relaxed. Try to avoid losing your own temper. Remember that reaching your destination safely and calmly is your goal. And once you are at your destination, the experience will be history.
Act as if you have a “Teflon” shield. No words, gestures or actions should stick. Don’t challenge the other driver and don’t look at them. Avoid eye contact. Ignore rude gestures and certainly do not gesture back.
Think about your own driving habits. Give the other driver the benefit of the doubt. Not all aggressive driving behavior is directed at you.
Be a courteous driver. Come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs and don’t run yellow lights. Let other drivers merge with you. Don’t ever follow other drivers too closely. Resist temptation to teach someone “a lesson.” Concentrate on driving, not on cell phones, stereo, passengers or other distractions. Remember that you can’t control traffic, but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.
Don’t block the passing lane, especially if you are driving slower than most of the traffic. Move to the right lane.
Report aggressive drivers or call your local police when you can. If necessary, drive to a location where there are witnesses and other people. Never put yourself in harm’s way.
Allow more travel time to get to your destination. Not only will it help prevent you from disobeying the speed limit, it reduces stress dramatically.
Louisiana State Police Troop I encompasses the parishes of Evangeline, St. Landry, Acadia, Lafayette, St. Martin, Vermilion, Iberia and St Mary. If you are on the highways and encounter an aggressive driver you may contact local law enforcement by calling 911 or troop I by dialing *LSP(577).
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident or somehow injured due to the negligence of someone else, do not hesitate to contact the personal injury team at Joseph Joy and Associates. Call us at (337) 232-8123 for a phone appointment.