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Aggressive driving breeds itself

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, May 23, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

As we collectively pack up the Griswold station wagon with faux wood trim and prepare to head out for some Memorial Day R & R, one timely reminder: Don't let the aggressive behavior of rude road warriors goad you into reacting in kind.
© Minerva Studio/
That's the message from Safeco, which timed its latest cautionary survey of the nation's highway manners to coincide with the start of summer travel season -- or as it's known in the auto insurance industry, three months of rush hour.

Safeco found that 82 percent of motorists say their mood behind the wheel suffers because of aggressive drivers. And, 85 percent of us describe other drivers as the problem, while only 36 percent admit to driving aggressively ourselves.

How aggressive drivers annoy us

The specific boorish behaviors that survey respondents identified as impediments to happy motoring include:

  • Cutting off other drivers (59 percent).
  • Using high beams toward oncoming traffic (57 percent).
  • Tailgating (56 percent).

It gets worse. Among the unlikely situations in which aggressive driving has reared its ugly head, more than a third (37 percent) of those surveyed have witnessed other drivers cut into a funeral line, more than half (54 percent) have seen fully able drivers take handicap parking spaces and 42 percent have seen drivers cut off a school bus.

Willingness to own up to aggressive driving varies coast to coast. The survey found that Boston ranks highest for drivers willing to admit they're part of the problem (46 percent), followed by New York and Los Angeles (both at 38 percent).

Denver ranks lowest in owning up to road rudeness (26 percent).

We want to do better

On a hopeful note, 72 percent of those surveyed said they'd be willing to make one change to their own behavior to make driving less aggravating for their fellow motorists.

In Safeco's news release, psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert -- author of "Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days" -- offers these tips to help cultivate more humane roadways:

  • Be friendly and courteous behind the wheel at all times: It encourages others to do likewise.
  • Recognize the signs of aggressive driving: If you're doing it, stop. If others are doing it, avoid them.
  • Anticipate, accept and plan for traffic delays by leaving early.
  • Don't take bad driving personally: It may have been an innocent mistake.

"People's emotions and anxieties often will play out on our roads and highways, putting us all in tense, high-stress driving conditions that can be dangerous," Alpert says. "Simple positive acts can have a huge impact on how you feel by activating the reward center in the brain -- meaning it really can make you feel good."

Should you need further proof of the dangers associated with aggressive driving, here's a look back at that road rage video that went viral recently.

Have a safe and courteous holiday!

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.

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