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Friday, December 19, 2008

The Difference Between Road Rage And Aggressive Driving, Chapter II

In the first article of this series we discussed the difference between aggressive drivers and drivers who have been somehow pushed over a psychological tipping point into a fit of rage so great that they try to harm another driver. In this article we are going to look at aggressive driving by itself.

Every state has recognized that aggressive driving is a major problem and has taken steps to deal with it. While state laws may differ slightly, the following is a generic list of traffic infractions that will lead to a driver being labeled as an aggressive driver if he or she commits two or more of them at the same time or close together:
• Exceeding the posted speed.
• Unsafely or improperly changing lanes.
• Following another vehicle too closely.
• Failing to yield the right-of-way.
• Improperly passing.
• Violating traffic control and signal devices.
Obviously each of these offenses by themselves can be dangerous and two or more combined increase the danger.

It looks like someone who is doing all of that might be in a fit of rage but these actions by themselves are not road rage; they are just bad driving. The problem with aggressive drivers is that most aggressive drivers feel their driving behaviors are perfectly reasonable. They feel they are good drivers with lightning fast reflexes who are in complete control of their vehicles at all times. It’s just that the laws are written too strictly so the state can make extra money and other “bad” drivers don’t understand how to drive properly and get in the way.

The problem is that they concentrate on the laws passed by the state and seem to forget the laws of physics that have an even greater impact on their driving. They forget that their vehicle is traveling so many feet per second for every mile per hour that they drive (for example: at 40 mph you are covering more than 58 feet per second). In the 1.5 seconds it takes for them to react and move their foot to the brake they have traveled 87 feet before their car even begins to slow. Driving at a high rate of speed reduces the time a driver has to react to a situation.

The other laws they seem to forget are the laws of motion. Newton’s first law of motion (inertia) says that an object in motion tends to remain in motion. No matter how fast they imagine their reflexes are, it takes time to bring a 3,000 pound car to a stop. On average, at 40 mph, it takes up to 120 feet to bring a car to a complete stop.

Another problem common to aggressive drivers is that they assume too much about other drivers. They don’t expect the driver they are tailgating to stop for no reason or they hope that they can get through that red light before another driver legally enters the intersection. When lane weaving, they don’t expect another car to enter the lane at the same time. Assumptions can be deadly.

In the next article, we’ll take a more in depth look at the physics involved in a car crash.

To learn more about driver safety and education please visit our Driver Safety Alerts at

Be careful out there and drive safe.

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