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What is Aggressive Driving?

A common definition of aggressive driving is:

"The use of a motor vehicle in a deliberate and aggressive manner that is likely to endanger life by increasing the risk of a collision". This behaviour is usually motivated by impatience, annoyance, hostility or an attempt to save time.

A recent RoadDriver survey has shown that over 67% of those questioned and who drive on UK roads have personally met or witnessed some form of Dangerous or Aggressive Driving. Behavioural Psychologists who specialise in road transport believe that most drivers "YES THAT MEANS YOU" are easily capable of inducing this aggressive state of mind.

Aggressive drivers' overreact to other motorists' minor mistakes or even momentary obstructionist behaviour. Aggressive drivers' impatience and anger often incites other drivers to sound out, "they act like they own the road"

Why don't we hear of Aggressive or Dangerous Pedestrians?

Why is it, the same people who repeatedly commit Dangerous or Aggressive Driving, can walk in and around other people at work, at Railway Stations, at Airports and in Shopping Centres without showing aggression? 

Over the past two decades; Britain's social climate has changed dramatically with both parents working longer and harder than ever before. This frenetic lifestyle has had a tremendous impact on people's capacity to be considerate and patient. On our overcrowded roads there is a greater diversity of road users now than at any period in British history. As a result, we have to accept that our roads are not exclusively reserved for those with ideal dispositions or optimum driving skills.

Some Psychologists believe the increase in recorded acts of poor driving, is simply an expression of increasing levels of aggression in our society. Other studies suggest that human beings respond badly to feelings of being hemmed in. For example, being stuck in a queue of traffic with cars either side blocking any escape route, can lead to feelings of frustration and for some panic.

No matter the cause or the reason for a person's aggression, RoadDriver strongly believes the anonymity the car offers us, at the very least allows, if not encourages otherwise normal rational people to outwardly display levels of anger and frustration that they would never dream of showing in their home or workplace.

Why and when does Dangerous or Aggressive Driving occur?

Dangerous or Aggressive Driving typically occurs when a person fails to manage his or her anger responses to a perceived wrongdoing by another driver. As human beings we are programmed to be territorial, for example, "Its my car and my space". This programming encourages us to consider other driver's rude or aggressive driving behaviour as a personal affront or indeed a tangible threat to our self-being i.e. "Its my car and my Space".

The way to prevent the stress caused by aggressive drivers is not to take their actions PERSONALLY. If a driver cuts in front of you or doesn't let you out at a junction, it can be looked on as an affront to you PERSONALLY. "That driver thinks he's better than me! So what if his car is more expensive than mine!" Alternatively we can view this thoughtless driver as merely a selfish person and get on with the business of driving safely to our destination.

Experience shows that we can view the same selfish act differently depending on our mood or personal circumstances. For example, you're at a T-Junction waiting to turn right and as you are about to pull out, a car comes from the left and turns right cutting you off. In the mail that morning you received a handsome cheque from the tax man, as a result no ones going to spoil your day, so you smile and don't react to this driver's rude manner.

The next morning the same happens to you again, but the previous evening the washing machine packed up and there goes the money from the tax man.  The happy-go-lucky mood of the previous morning has long gone and as the car cuts you off, you're red-faced with anger; you have two fingers at the ready when you recognise the driver as Jim from house number 14, so you quickly hide your two fingers and hope he didn't catch a glimpse of your red face.

Therefore would you agree; in certain circumstances we can choose not to react or take another's drivers misdemeanours PERSONALLY?

React and you lose control  

For every action there is a reaction, there is a no truer saying than this; if you react to a given driving situation unfavourably it could have disastrous consequences for you, for your family and for society in general.

Police experience has shown that a person's reaction to an already fraught situation can exacerbate and antagonise people who are already confrontational and who by nature have angry temperaments.

A driver's anger and aggression can be all-pervading and in certain circumstances can develop into what Psychologists refer to as "RED MIST". This psychological state can arise when a driver literally sees red because he believes an injustice no matter how small has been perpetrated against him PERSONALLY.  He can be so intent in chasing the offender that all rational thinking disappears and his capacity for risk assessment both for his own safety and that of other road users goes out of the window.

A recent report highlighted a motorist who was so intent on catching up with a driver who had annoyed him that he drove at speeds in excess of a hundred miles per hour. This while his wife and small child were screaming and pleading for him to stop. Clearly "Red Mist" had engulfed his state of mind.

Extensive training courses are available to professional drivers such as Fire, Ambulance and Police pursuit drivers who by the very nature of their job can be caught up in the Red Mist effect. These drivers are taught how to deal with their feelings of anger and frustrations while responding to an incident. Even the most experienced pursuit drivers can find it difficult to manage their emotions, for example, not to take unnecessary risks while trying to catch a drunk driver whose impaired driving is endangering life or property.

What is Aggressive Driving - Tips and Advice Article No20  RoadDriver 2010

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