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Do you know how to respond to aggressive drivers?

Between frustrating traffic jams and inconsiderate or careless motorists, driving in New York is rarely a stress-free experience. But while it’s perfectly normal to experience occasional anger behind the wheel, drivers must always remember that losing their temper in the heat of the moment can have deadly consequences on the road.

Nationally, fatal crashes linked to aggressive driving skyrocketed roughly 500% between 2006 and 2015. What’s more, is east coasters are far more likely to engage in dangerous, aggressive driving behaviors like yelling, honking or gesturing angrily than other parts of the country.

The next time you encounter an aggressive driver, it’s essential that you take steps to ensure your safety and deescalate the situation as much as possible. Here’s everything you need to know about dealing with an aggressive driver in traffic.

What is aggressive driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, aggressive driving refers to when a driver commits a combination of traffic offenses that endanger other people or their property. Usually, these offenses include actions like:

  • Purposefully tailgating

  • Yelling at another driver

  • Changing lanes without signal or caution

  • Honking to show anger or annoyance

  • Angry hand gestures

  • Improper passing

Though aggressive driving is highly dangerous, it is not the same thing as road rage. Road rage is a criminal offense when a person assaults another with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon after an incident on a roadway. Though aggressive driving is irresponsible, it isn’t always intentional. Sometimes it is the result of carelessness or distraction.

What to do if you encounter an aggressive driver

As tempting as it may be to respond angrily to a driver who cuts you off or endangers you in another way, this will do more harm than good. Rather than paying the consequences of risky driving behaviors and costly accidents, your priority should be your safety. If someone is driving aggressively, you should:

  • Keep your distance: Do what you can to get away from the driver, including changing lanes, slowing down or taking the nearest exit.

  • Don’t engage: Do your best not to challenge the other driver or further escalate their aggression. Avoid making eye contact and get a safe distance away from them.

  • Record important details: If you fear for the safety of yourself or others on the road, try to record information on the car such as its make, model and license plate number to give to the authorities.

  • Get to safety: If an aggressive driver follows you, never stop or get out and confront the driver. Lock your doors, keep your windows up and drive to the nearest police station or public area.

While aggressive drivers aren’t always avoidable, you can avoid making a bad situation worse. By trying to stay calm in the face of aggression, you can ensure you and your passengers remain safe in the car.

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