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It might be the month of love, but it is also Aggressive Driving Awareness Month. A recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous year.
The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in some type of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver. “Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage and aggressive driving behavior,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
Coincidentally, lawmakers in Annapolis are weighing a bill today, HB 881 that, if passed, would reduce the number of offenses a motorist must simultaneously commit to be ticketed for aggressive driving. It’s at least three now. AAA Mid-Atlantic supports the measure. Eleven states have passed specific aggressive driving laws.
Over six million crashes in the United States are caused by road rage, estimates the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Aggressive driving accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities,” highway safety advocates warn. Nationally, male drivers, between the ages of 25 and 34 are involved in the highest number of fatalities and seriously injured related to aggressive driving. In contrast, it is male drivers ages 21 to 34 in Maryland. Statewide, 61.4 percent of aggressive driving fatalities occur in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and Baltimore City, reveals the Maryland Highway Safety Plan.
During the latest five-year period, 2009 through 2013, aggressive driving accounted for an average of 6 percent of all traffic crashes, 8 percent of all injury crashes, and 9 percent of all fatal crashes in Maryland, according to the FFY 2016 Maryland Highway Safety Plan. Aggressive driving also accounted for one in every 11 crash injuries (9 percent) and one in every 10 fatalities (10 percent) across the State. The Maryland Department of Transportation advises that, in 2016, there were 4,305 aggressive driving-related crashes. Of that number, 2,615 resulted in property damage, 1,653 resulted in injury, and 37 involved a fatality.
Examples of driver violence on Maryland roads include:
The Maryland State Police arrested a driver from Virginia earlier this month after he reportedly pointed a gun at another vehicle on Interstate 95 near Laurel, Maryland. The suspect was taken into custody “in connection with a suspected road rage incident.”
In December, the driver of a BMW reportedly attempted to ram his vehicle into a young driver who stopped his vehicle along on Route 198 in Prince George’s County.
In October, the Maryland State Police arrested a man in connection with the stabbing of a passenger in a Silverado pick-up truck on the Intercounty Connector (ICC)/MD 200. Maryland State Troopers say the incident occurred on the “ramp from the ICC to northbound I-95 during rush hour traffic.” The accused 49-year-old suspect was charged with “attempted second-degree murder, first-and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, possession of a dangerous weapon with intent to injure, concealing a dangerous weapons and disturbing the peace.”
Aggressive driving behavior is described as:
- Purposefully tailgating
- Running red and yellow traffic lights
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Yelling at another driver
- Honking to show annoyance or anger
- Making angry gestures
- Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes
- Cutting off another vehicle on purpose
“While it may be normal for drivers to experience anger behind the wheel, we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” said Averella. “Don’t risk escalating a frustrating situation because you never know what the other driver might do. Maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching your destination safely.”
AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage:
- 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.
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