In October, Jesse Wright of Denver was arrested and held on $1 million bond after firing a gun at another vehicle in an apparent road rage incident that sent two people to the hospital. Earlier in the month, an aggressive driver left a victim’s car seriously damaged after the suspect ripped out the driver’s side window apparently because the victim was following too close behind him. And just this summer, a Colorado Springs bicyclist was intentionally struck by a driver who yelled at the cyclist for supposedly blocking traffic, leaving the victim with a broken wrist. Stories like these are becoming all too common on Colorado roadways. In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that 8 out of 10 drivers surveyed rank aggressive driving as a serious or extremely serious risk that jeopardizes their safety. And they’re right, because aggressive driving accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities.
While “road rage” incidents account for the most shocking stories of aggressive driving, many common behaviors such as racing, tailgating, failing to observe signs and regulations, and seeking confrontation with other drivers all qualify as potentially aggressive behaviors. Road rage, as defined by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety as “any unsafe driving maneuver performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety,” and includes cutting people off, hitting one car with another, running someone off the road, and shooting or physically assaulting other drivers or passengers.
“With road rage, you’re basically driving under the influence of impaired emotions,” says Leon James, PhD, a professor of psychology at University of Hawaii and co-author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. According to James, anyone can take offense at what they think another driver, cyclist or pedestrian is doing, even though their assumptions may be wrong. James says recognizing and controlling aggressive thoughts, feelings, and actions are key.
Follow these useful tips to keep your cool and avoid being an aggressive driver accident statistic:
- Protect yourself. If you are dealing with an aggressive driver, keep your doors locked and if threatened, call 911 immediately. In Colorado, you can also report an aggressive driver to the Colorado State Patrol by dialing *277. This free call allows law enforcement to track incidents in real time and may save lives.
- Don’t take it personally. Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn’t. Avoid conflict. If challenged, just take a deep breath and move out of the way. Never underestimate another driver’s ability to put you in harm’s way and put you at risk for serious injury.
- Reduce your own stress. Understand that you cannot control traffic or other road conditions, only your reaction to it. Personal frustration, anger, and impatience can quickly escalate causing you and others harm. Relax.
- Be a courteous driver. Don’t make obscene gestures, don’t tailgate, and avoid making eye contact with an aggressive driver. And use your horn sparingly since even a polite honk can be misinterpreted and quickly escalate a situation.
If you or someone you love were injured in an auto accident as a result of another motorist’s aggressive or reckless driving, an experienced Denver auto accident lawyer can help you understand your rights and discuss your options for recovering the compensation you deserve.