Aggressive Driving Explained: Definition, Causes, & Prevention

To err is human. Aggressive driving is human, and we’ve all been there. Maybe you were late for work, you didn’t have enough coffee that morning, or you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and suddenly, you can’t control your emotions. You begin driving aggressively and maybe even a little recklessly.

You are not alone. Aggressive driving is something we have all experienced and at that moment, it can feel almost justified. The problem is that aggressive driving can lead to accidents or serious injuries. And no momentary lapse in judgment or overwhelming emotions should end that way.

Let’s understand aggressive driving a little more.

What Is Aggressive Driving?

Aggressive driving occurs when a driver becomes emotional and drives erratically and angrily. Aggressive driving usually results from irritability, stress, or a combination of factors that manifest behind the wheel and can cause freak accidents or even serious injury.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, aggressive driving occurs when a driver commits a traffic offense that endangers other people’s lives or property. Any driving behavior that disregards safety can be classified as aggressive driving.

This kind of driving has increasingly become a major source of road accidents and in the United State, and road rage that began as aggressive driving is the cause of about 30 murders each year.[1] The increased number of cars and road traffic has led to alarming incidents of road rage.

What’s the Difference Between Road Rage and Aggressive Driving?

Aggressive driving is considered a traffic offense and categorized as unsafe driving performed deliberately with ill intent or disregard for safety. Aggressive driving will usually end with the at-fault driver getting a ticket and maybe some traffic school.

On the other hand, road rage is a criminal offense that is characterized by willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. The subtle difference here is that the level of disregard in incidents of road rage is seen as much more extreme and thus dangerous. Road rage is an assault with a motor vehicle. A serious road rage incident may even land the driver in jail.

What Are the Common Behaviors That Constitute Aggressive Driving?

Some of these behaviors can also be considered road rage, but the difference depends on how erratic the driver is when acting out these behaviors.

  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Erratic lane changes
  • Honking
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Failing to signal
  • Running on red lights
  • Racing
  • Failure to obey traffic lights
  • Shouting, yelling, or taking frustrations out on other drivers
  • Bumping other cars on purpose
  • Getting out of the car or confronting other drivers

Careless, negligent driving, or failing to follow traffic laws, or endangering other drivers, pedestrians, or properties is considered aggressive driving.

What Are the Factors Contributing to Aggressive Driving? 

– Environment. Road conditions and lack of traffic signs can increase the driver’s frustrations. Traffic intervals and congested roads can agitate drivers on the road especially running those who are late for work or appointments. Heat, noise, and other environmental conditions can also make the driver irritable and the likelihood to engage in road violence.

– Stress. When mixed with frustration or anger, both of these can easily lead to aggression. When a driver is agitated, he or she is most likely to display behavior that intends to ignore traffic laws like running on a red signal, honking, or taking frustrations out on other drivers.

– Personality. Hostile personality and being over competitive are two factors that contribute to being an aggressive driver. People that are egocentric, impulsive, overconfident to handle problems and those with poor problem-solving skills are more prone to aggressive driving.

A driver that is too competitive dislikes being passed and lacks the control to override his or her competitiveness. Drivers with these traits are said to be involved in more accidents and violations compared to the general driving public.

– Triggering incidents. Aggressive drivers get easily frustrated with others on the road who are distracted, slow, or hesitant.

What Can I Do to Prevent Aggressive Driving?

All road rage incidents almost always begin with aggressive driving. So if we can prevent aggressive driving, we may be able to prevent road rage in the process.

Aggressive drivers do not mind the impact they create on other drivers. Knowing its implications, you have to remain focus behind the wheel and observe the following:

  • Be considerate
  • Always allow sufficient following distance
  • Use your horn responsibly
  • Use appropriate turn signals
  • Do not use your mobile phone or check emails while driving
  • If possible, do not eat while driving
  • Know alternative routes during rush hours
  • Research traffic reports if it is your first time to that destination
  • Leave early to avoid traffic or being late
  • Remain calm and courteous

Promoting positive vibes will almost always affect how you feel. So if you treat other drivers with respect and courtesy, even giving them the benefit of the doubt, it will make YOU feel better.

It’s a proven, psychological fact, that if you treat others well, you will feel happiness. Kindness breeds happiness and compassion breeds contentment. [2]

If you feel anger or frustration boiling over, try your best to be extra compassionate.

How to Deal with Aggressive Drivers?

Avoid aggressive drivers at all costs. No matter how inconsiderate, or dangerous their behavior, your best course of action is to avoid them.

  • Do not respond aggressively or rudely to an aggressive driver
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Stay calm and courteous as possible
  • Drive to a public place if you feel you are at risk
  • Or call 911

If you have been the victim of a personal injury caused by aggressive driving, road rage, or distracted driving, reach out to one of our car accident lawyers (800) 560-5059.





About The Author

Sean Greene

Sean Greene

The Florida BarFlorida Bar Young Lawyers DivisionMillion Dollar Advocates ForumMillion Dollar Advocates ForumBest Workers Compensation Attorneys in MiamiBest Car Accident Lawyers in MiamiLawyers of distinction

Sean J. Greene has recovered more than $150 million in the past 10 years for clients. He specializes within the firm in wrongful death, personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home malpractice, and product liability cases. Sean has represented coaches and players in the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) who have been victims of personal injuries. In 2001, after winning a trial on liability, he recovered $11,200,000 for the family of David Griggs, the former Miami Dolphins player who died in an automobile accident in Broward County, Florida. He has received the highest distinction of an AV® rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell, which recognizes Sean as possessing “Very High-Preeminent” legal ability with “Very High” ethical standards. Additionally, he is a member of the prestigious Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum whose membership is limited to trial lawyers who have achieved a trial verdict or settlement in the amount of $1,000,000 or more. Sean is widely known in South Florida, as he cohosted the TV program “Your Legal Rights” and lectures throughout the state of Florida on various legal issues.