Guest Column: Aggressive Driving
David B Shoar
St Johns County Sheriff
All of us have been driving somewhere minding our own business when another motorist cuts us off in traffic or drives slowly in the left hand lane impeding our travel.
The natural reaction to these behaviors is anger and frustration. Far too often this frustration is manifested in what we now refer to as “road rage.”
Here are a few facts that we know about “road rage.” First, as traffic increases in a particular area, there is a corresponding increase in “road rage” events. Obviously, there is no question that the volume of traffic in St. Johns County has and will continue to increase with growth.
Second, most people that engage in “road rage” events are everyday law abiding citizens who under normal circumstances would never enter into a confrontation with a stranger.
Third, “road rage” events rarely involve teenage drivers; it usually involves young and middle age drivers.
Finally, serious injury or death is always a potential outcome of a “road rage” event, like the one that occurred recently to our north.
Did you know that about half of all drivers who are subjected to aggressive driving behavior on the road respond with aggression of their own?
A recent national survey revealed that 34% of those drivers who are confronted with an aggressive driver honk their horn at the subject. Another 27% yell, 19% give a hand gesture back and 17% flash their lights. Even 2% of those questioned stated that they attempted to run the aggressor off the road.
Road rage is a two-way street. If you are subjected to aggressive driving, often times the best way to ensure it does not get worse is to just ignore it.
In 2010, Florida had the distinction of being the worst state in the country for road rage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that over 12,000 Florida car crashes were caused by road rage. Nationwide the NHTSA estimates that 66% of all fatal traffic accidents are caused by road rage. In addition, for every road rage incident serious enough to result in a police report, there are hundreds, maybe thousands more which never get reported.
The prevention of “road rage” events is all of our responsibility. If you see an event of this type unfolding before you, do not hesitate to call law enforcement.
The best method of prevention is not to become personally involved in a “road rage” event, but in the event that you are cut off in traffic or the victim of someone else’s driving that may infuriate you, think before you act. Often times just pulling off the road and out of traffic will calm you down.
Here are some tips from the NHTSA if you should become confronted by an aggressive driver: Make every attempt to get out of their way. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own in your travel lane. Avoid eye contact and ignore gestures. Report aggressive drivers to the appropriate authorities by providing a good vehicle description, license number, location and direction of travel. These high risk drivers climb into the anonymity of an automobile and take out their frustrations on anybody at any time.
The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is committed to enhancing the safety on our roadways for our motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. Our Traffic Unit continues to engage in the monitoring of “aggressive driving” and enforcing applicable traffic laws when indicated.
Please remember that law enforcement cannot solve the problem of “road rage” alone, this issue requires a commitment by all of our citizens. If you feel you are in danger or you witness aggressive driving, report the offender to your nearest law enforcement office or by calling 911.
If you have any questions on this or if you should have any future column ideas please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.