Driving Safety and De-escalation Techniques

30 August 2021

With recent accounts of extreme aggressive driving and road rage near the Twin Cities, AAA wants to provide de-escalation and safe driving tips for all drivers. Aggressive driving is extremely common among U.S. drivers. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 data, nearly 80 percent of drivers admitted to expressing significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous 30 days. Any unsafe driving behavior performed deliberately and with ill intention or a disregard for safety can constitute aggressive driving.

“Anything from speeding, cutting in front of other drivers, tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic to running red lights, blocking cars that are attempting to pass or change lanes, or using headlights or brakes to “punish” other drivers is considered an aggressive driving behavior,” says Meredith Mitts, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Extreme cases of aggressive driving can escalate to road rage,” Mitts continues.

Examples of road rage include:

  • Cursing and rude or obscene gestures
  • Throwing objects
  • Ramming
  • Sideswiping
  • Forcing a driver off the road
  • Physical aggression or violence

According to a the AAA’s 2019 Traffic Safety data, nearly 8 in 10 (79%) American drivers admitted to aggressive behaviors within the past 30 days. The most common actions were:

  • 48% - Speeding (driving 15 mph over the speed limit on a crowded freeway)
  • 34% - Tailgating (following a vehicle in front of you closely to prevent another vehicle from merging)
  • 32% - Making rude gestures or honking at other drivers
  • 31% - Running a red light
  • 26% - Aggressive driving: switching lanes quickly or drove very close behind another car

“When you are out driving, it’s important to remember what you personally have control of—your behavior and your responses,” Mitts says. “You might see other drivers doing things that are illegal, inconsiderate, or even incomprehensible, but you shouldn’t respond personally. Most drivers are not thinking about their impact on you; they are just rushed, distracted, or upset for another reason.”

Tips to Discourage Aggressive Driving (in yourself and others):

  • Follow all rules of the road (including speed limit, hands free law, slow down move over laws, etc.)
  • Maintain adequate following distance.
  • Use turn signals.
  • Allow other to merge.
  • Use your high beams responsibly.
  • If you must use your horn, tap it lightly (no long blasts or accompanying hand gestures.)
  • Be considerate in parking lots and on busy road ways.

Remaining calm and courteous behind the wheel lowers your risk of an unpleasant encounter – with another driver and with law enforcement. If you do end up in a situation where you are dealing with confrontation from another driver, do your best to de-escalate the situation and/or safely remove yourself from the situation by finding a safe way to exit and call for help if necessary.

Tips for Dealing with a Road Rage Encounter:

  • Avoid eye contact with angry drivers.
  • If confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible.
  • Don’t respond to aggression with aggression.
  • If you feel threatened, call 911.
  • If you feel you are at risk, drive to a public place such as a police station, hospital or fire station.
  • When you park, allow room so you can pull out safely if someone approaches you aggressively.
  • Use your horn to attract attention but remain in your locked vehicle.

Always Remember:

  • Don’t Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle, and contact 9-1-1 if needed.

“When you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, regardless of where you are going, remember your true goals: arrive safely and arrive alive,” Mitts recommends. “This means follow the speed limit, put the phone down, buckle up, and keep your eyes and mind driving safely. If everyone did this, priorities would shift and our roadways would be safer for everyone traveling along them.”

For more information, visit www.aaa.com/preventroadrage