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Spot the unsafe driver: It’s not a game

Jan. 19, 2017

Photo: Speeders fear getting caught more than they fear a crash. Here’s how to avoid them.​​​

It’s probably happened to you: You’re driving down the highway, obeying the speed limit and keeping an eye on your blind spots, when someone comes along and cuts you off without using their turn signal. Unfortunately, aggressive drivers are as much a part of driving as seat belts and stop signs. But you can learn to recognize aggressive drivers early on and deal with them safely. Here’s how.

Knowing who is driving aggressively and who isn’t may seem obvious at first, but it’s worth it to know the signs.

Aggressive drivers usually display some or all of the following behaviors:
  • Ignoring turn signals and not using their own.
  • Ignoring traffic signals.
  • Speeding and tailgating.
  • Weaving in and out of traffic.
  • Making improper lane changes frequently and abruptly.
  • Passing on the shoulder.
  • Making hand and facial gestures.
  • Screaming, honking and flashing lights.

So once you spot an aggressive and potentially dangerous driver, what do you do? After all, a 2014 study by the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety found that high-risk drivers don’t believe speeding is extremely dangerous and that speeders fear getting caught more than they fear a crash. Which means the number one thing you need to do to stay safe from them is to do your best to get out of the way and disengage. Part of that is staying calm and remembering that reaching your destination safely is your goal.

Other ways to disengage from aggressive drivers:

  • Don’t challenge them.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Ignore their gestures and don’t return them.

Lastly, if it is safe to do so, take note of the description of the high-risk driver’s vehicle along with its license number and your location, then call that information in to 911.