The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines aggressive driving as when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property."
The exact number of traffic crashes caused by aggressive drivers is unknown, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated 66 percent of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving behaviors, said Lt. Dave Hopper of the Michigan State Police Post at Sault Ste. Marie.
One of the aggressive driving behaviors is following too closely, also known as "tailgating," Lt. Hopper said.
Rear-end crashes account for more than 29 percent of all crashes. These types of crashes often result from a failure to respond (or delays in responding) to stopped or decelerating lead vehicles, he said.
Most people don't like being tailgated, and think it's annoying and dangerous, but their typical reaction is to slow down to punish the tailgater.
It is most likely to occur on local streets in response to an individual driving at or below the speed limit.
Lt. Hopper said the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code section 257.643 states "(1) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the highway..."
The rule of thumb is one car length per 10 miles an hour driven.
"So if you are travelling at 55 miles per hour, you should be between 80-100 feet behind the vehicle in front of you," Lt. Hopper said.
"If you read-ended the vehicle in front of you, according to the law, you are at fault," he said.
Troopers at the Sault Ste. Marie Post is conducting an aggressive driving campaign. This includes stopping motorists for tailgating.
We believe that such a campaign should be conducted routinely throughout the Upper Peninsula, and the state.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers the following tips on aggressive driving.
Are you an aggressive driver?
- Express frustration. Taking out your frustrations on your fellow motorists can lead to violence or a crash.
- Fail to pay attention when driving. Reading, eating, drinking or talking on the phone, can be a major cause of roadway crashes.
- Tailgate. This is a major cause of crashes that can result in serious deaths or injuries.
- Make frequent lane changes. If you whip in and out of lanes to advance ahead, you can be a danger to other motorists.
- Run red lights. Do not enter an intersection on a yellow light. Remember flashing red lights should be treated as a stop sign.
- Speed. Going faster than the posted speed limit, being a "road racer" and going too fast for conditions are some examples of speeding.
Plan ahead. allow yourself extra time.
- Concentrate. Don't allow yourself to become distracted by talking on your cellular phone, eating, drinking or putting on makeup.
- Relax. Tune the radio to your favorite relaxing music. Music can calm your nerves and help you to enjoy your time in the car.
- Drive the posted speed limit. Fewer crashes occur when vehicles are travelling at or about the same speed.
- Identify alternate routes. Try mapping out an alternate route. Even if it looks longer on paper, you may find it is less congested.
- Use public transportation. Public transportation can give you some much-needed relief from life behind the wheel.
- Just be late. If all else fails, just be late.
When confronted with aggressive drivers:
- Get out of the way. First and foremost make every attempt to get out of their way.
- Put your pride aside. Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own in your travel lane.
- Avoid eye contact. Eye contact can sometimes enrage an aggressive driver.
- Gestures. Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.
- Report serious aggressive driving. You or a passenger may call the police. But, if you use a cell phone, pull over to a safe location.