We have all encountered aggressive drivers at one time or another. The ones who pull up close behind you in their vehicle, honking or perhaps making obscene gestures, sometimes even pulling dangerous stunts in heavy traffic due to their “road rage.” While these scenarios are thankfully uncommon, most drivers in Southern California encounter them from time to time. The heavy traffic plaguing our portion of the state does us no favors on the road, and certainly contributes to the problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines aggressive driving as operating a motor vehicle in, “a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.”
Tactics to Avoid Engaging Aggressive Drivers:
Don’t make eye contact. First and foremost, while you certainly cannot avoid looking in the other car’s general direction (and you want to be aware of where it is at all times), you should avoid making direct eye contact. Many angry drivers will take this as a challenge or unspoken invitation to engage in further aggressive behavior. Try to defuse the situation by calmly keeping your focus on the road and moving out of the other driver’s way as soon as you safely can.
Keep ample bumper room. This tactic is especially pertinent to the Southern California gridlock we experience on a daily basis. When you do encounter aggressive drivers, the safest course of action is to move out of their way, even if it means moving your car passively aside into an adjoining lane. This is difficult to do when you are bumper-to-bumper, so aim to always leave at least a car space ahead of you to maneuver.
Avoid reciprocating. Whatever you do, don’t respond to the aggressive driver with your own angry gestures or attempt to engage them verbally. Understand that, for whatever reason, they are beyond rational discussion. Certainly, any inflammatory gesture or comment will only increase the danger to yourself and your passengers. Remain calm, and put as much room as possible between yourself and the other car.