4 Ways to Tell If You’re an Aggressive Driver

Some drivers turn into Mr. Hyde behind the wheel. Find out how to protect yourself against aggressive drivers (and keep from becoming one).

Does it seem like there are more angry drivers on the road these days? It might not be your imagination. In a recent poll by the Washington Post, the number of drivers who confessed to feeling “uncontrollable anger toward another driver” doubled between 2005 and 2013. And those are just the honest answers — people are far more likely to see aggression in other drivers than in themselves.

Whatever the actual number may be, it’s a growing problem … and a potentially deadly one.

Aggressive behavior is thought to be a factor in 2 out of every 3 traffic deaths. (Tweet this.)

What is aggressive driving?

Aggressive driving involves deliberate behaviors that put people and property at risk, such as speeding, running red lights, tailgating, cutting off other drivers, and weaving through traffic. Usually, it includes a combination (or all) of the above. And if a driver moves beyond acting out in frustration and actually tries to use their vehicle to do harm, aggressive driving becomes “road rage,” a criminal offense.

What causes drivers to behave aggressively?

There are many possible factors (bad mood, running late), but traffic congestion is a major contributor. That sea of taillights at rush hour has drivers seeing red in more ways than one. Over the last 2 decades, cities of all sizes have seen huge increases in traffic, and as more and more people begin commuting to and from work, congestion is predicted to get even worse.

Cars can also make drivers feel territorial — they consider their vehicle part of their personal domain and react defensively if they feel threatened. Plus, drivers often feel a sense of anonymity and power behind the wheel that encourages them to act in ways they normally wouldn’t.

On top of that, there’s an element of learned behavior. Children learn aggressive driving behavior from watching how their parents drive.

4 ways to tell if you’re an aggressive driver

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar?

  • You hit the gas when the light turns yellow
  • When someone tries to merge at the last minute, you “teach them a lesson” by not letting them in
  • You lay on your your horn when someone is slow to respond to a green light
  • You’re frustrated by a slow driver in the left lane, so you ride their bumper or zoom past them on the right

If so, you’re letting aggression get the best of you behind the wheel.

How can you avoid becoming an aggressive driver?

Aggressive driving not only puts you and others in danger, it can be expensive as well. Most insurers won’t cover an accident resulting from deliberate or reckless behavior, and a road-rage incident on your record can substantially raise your rates.

To keep your inner Mr. Hyde from coming out, try these tips:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going since being late sends frustration levels through the roof
  • Avoid driving when you’re angry or stressed
  • Adjust your schedule to avoid peak traffic times if possible
  • Use traffic reports or traffic apps to prepare yourself for (or ideally, avoid) delays
  • Listen to music, the news, or an audio book if you find background noise soothing rather than distracting
  • Don’t take things personally — give other drivers the benefit of the doubt
  • Remember that red lights and traffic jams are beyond your control, and getting upset won’t change anything

How can you avoid conflicts with other drivers?

While there’s no excuse for driving like a jerk, here are a few things that can help keep you from lighting someone’s fuse:

  • Use the left lane for passing only
  • Remember to always use your turn signals
  • Be courteous and allow plenty of room when passing and merging
  • If you make a mistake, acknowledge it with a friendly wave
  • Use your horn only when necessary
  • Don’t use hand gestures to express your frustration

What should you do if an aggressive driver challenges you?

The best way to diffuse the situation is to let it go. Reacting may cause the problem to escalate. If confronted by an angry driver:

  • Avoid eye contact with the driver if possible
  • Don’t respond to or return hand gestures
  • Give the driver plenty of space
  • Resist the urge to put them in their place by racing or blocking them
  • If the driver follows you, drive to a police station, store, or other public area — do not go home

Ultimately, your best protection against aggressive drivers or other road hazards is to learn defensive driving techniques, and always buckle up.

Stay safe out there! And of course, make sure you have the right car insurance coverage.

Related posts

Are synchronized traffic lights the answer to traffic congestion?
Learn how race car drivers stay calm behind the wheel
Find your Zen next rush hour with these 8 Buddhist quotes

59 Responses to “4 Ways to Tell If You’re an Aggressive Driver”

  1. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    February 26, 2014 #

    So, is a slow driver who purposely stymies traffic — impedes the flow of traffic — an aggressive driver? Is a slow driver who tools along in the left lane at or below speed, just stupid, or not aware of their surroundings, not fit to drive? Why aren't we talking about those drivers who drive oblivious to their surroundings. By definition (of this article) the half dozen or so drivers who pass a slow driver and then regain the left lane, are they aggressive drivers? How many accidents are caused by drivers who must change lanes to avoid the "slow" driver?

    Slow drivers are just as likely to cut off traffic as a speeder. I have noticed more often slow drivers occupying the left lane, backing up traffic behind them suddenly have to change several lanes to get to an exit — changing lanes quickly and across them to get to their exit — without pause going from one the lane to the several lanes across.

    The focus on speeding, tail-gating, etc., are worthy of concern, but just as certainly is the concern of slow drivers who persistently, wantonly and passive-aggressively maintain their position in an area of the roadway that by the driving culture historically is occupied by the faster moving traffic. I would even say that the "faster" drivers are more aware of their surroundings, have more of a deliberate purpose of their travels and really do know what they are doing and should not (all) be classified as "aggressive" drivers.

    I will add that at both ends of the spectrum (and in between) there are bad drivers. Period. Those that speed recklessly; those that occupy space on the roadways without care (and awareness) of other drivers, those that change lanes quickly and without signaling — no class of drivers are immune from those driving behaviors. But, please, aggressive driving is not limited to the examples provide for in Ellen Hall's article.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 21, 2014 #

      Whoa!! gerg999 sounds like your on the aggressive writer(driver) list, take a breath and smile sometime. :)

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 22, 2014 #

      I'm perfectly within my rights to drive in the left lane at the speed limit. If you want to drive faster than that, go around me.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        James Farris
        May 22, 2014 #

        Sir, it is well identified on the major highways to "Keep Right Except To Pass" or some other version of the same statement.
        No, You are NOT within Your rights you are infringing upon all other Driver's RIGHTS to obey the written law.
        Passing on the right is moving to a lane while you sight is limited and can be dangerous.
        Please, Keep Right Except To Pass.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        May 22, 2014 #

        No it's not, and you're the problem.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        May 23, 2014 #

        well….perhaps where you live, you can ride in the left lane at the speed limit. however, different states do have different laws. i'm in new jersey. there are signs all over the highways that say 'keep right, except to pass'. in other words….if you are not passing people, you are supposed to stay to the right (not in the left lane). and, yeah……you can get a traffic ticket for simply driving the speed limit in the left lane.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        May 23, 2014 #

        If you are driving slower than everybody else (even if you are driving the speed limit) then you do not need to be in the left lane. Slower moving traffic should NOT be in the left lane so it is NOT within your rights if you are in fact impeding other drivers.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        May 23, 2014 #

        Common courtesy dictates that you get out of the left lane it is for passing not for driving in it.. I would say that you are an aggressive driver.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        Christopher (@Critofur)
        May 23, 2014 #

        In most states, you are violating the law, drrdc. KRPL = Keep Right Pass Left

        Of course, driving the speed limit is fine, and speeding is breaking the law. But, regardless of the speed limit, please observe signs posted which state "slower drivers keep right".

        When I was younger I NEVER saw people so rude, behaving so poorly, that they would cruise in the left lane. Basically all people used the left lane only for passing, and always got out of the left lane as quickly as was safely possible.

        If you keep up your bad left lane habits, someday I'll read about you in the news.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        May 23, 2014 #

        Yeah, no. You're wrong. I was once in a car with a driver on I-5 south in Oregon, who insisted she could drive the speed limit in the left lane. I told her it was rude and she said "but I'm following the law!" An Oregon highway patrol officer approached behind, and followed us for about three miles. I kept telling her to move over and let him pass. She kept telling me she was going the speed limit, and the cop could pass her if he wanted. She was trying to prove a point. The cop PULLED US OVER and told us, as I quote, "If you are in the left lane and anyone comes up behind you going faster than you, you must move to the right to let them pass. It doesn't matter if they are going 70 or 700, it's not your job to keep the flow of traffic at 60. It's your job to move over and let them pass." She was written a ticket for impeding the flow of traffic. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW, dangerous, and ***incredibly justifiably angering*** to drive slow in the left lane. Be an aware driver– check your mirrors, if you are in the left lane see someone approaching behind you going faster than you are, plan ahead and move over before they are at your bumper. If you are in the right lane and see someone ahead of you going slower, move left to pass them with ease.

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        Ed R
        June 3, 2014 #

        Actually drrdc, you are not. All vehicles moving in the flow of traffic are mandated to the right lane, unless you are passing… are you always passing someone, I doubt it…

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        July 2, 2014 #

        No you're actually not drrdc. That is called impeding traffic and can get you a ticket!

      • Avatar for Ellen Hall
        September 15, 2014 #

        "slower traffic keep left"!!

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 22, 2014 #

      Driving below the speed limit with traffic behind you is illegal. It is called "impeding traffic".

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 27, 2014 #

      When even I see someone drive slow or do anything could make other driver upset first thing I do is imaging they could be my parents or grand parents or even my brothers or sisters, I would not be upset at all. It also could be me one day when I get old. And some time I do look down at traffic stop for some reason, so why should I be upset for something I would do? After all 2 or 3 seconds would not make much difference to me at all. Think the other way: you could be hit by another car if you were two seconds earlier :D. Take it easy. We all could have a nice day! Being angry would be my lost, lost a nice day.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Ruby Haynes
      June 1, 2014 #

      I stay behind a slow driver, no hurry to get where I am going. I go the speed limit, what ever it is.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      John Keels
      April 3, 2015 #

      Another thing. Speed limits should be enforced but I don't think cops should be able to get away with ticketing any time someone is 1MPH over the limit. If you are driving way too fast for conditions or driving stupidly or driving 100MPH in a 70MPH zone then I think that is when it is good to ticket the person. If a person is speeding up to go 75 to 85 MPH to legitimately pass someone going 60mph in a 70mph zone then I think there is no reason or way that they should EVER be ticketed unless they are driving dangerously. Enforcing an absolute speed limit is stupid and just a way that cops get away with making people's lives miserable and collect more revenue for that new Hemi Charger they want to be driving around in instead of a six year old Crown Vic that can get the job done adequately.

      4 Way stops are always interesting. People often times are clueless to the safe simplicity of operating a vehicle correctly through a stop sign. And it is even worse at times in places that have roundabouts which I think are excellent but only when people know how to use them correctly and CARE enough to use them correctly when they do know about it.

  2. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Keep right pass left
    February 26, 2014 #

    Those slow drivers in the left Lane are the true hazard. Passive-aggressive driving that causes vehicles to drive in packs is much more dangerous than driving with proper lane discipline 10 miles over the limit. Move over, lazy people. The word drive is an action verb for a reason.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 23, 2014 #

      There are rules of the road and passing in the left is one just as the right lane is the slower lane like looking for a exit this is common sense and should be applied when driving

  3. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    April 2, 2014 #

    I usually ride my motorcycle to work, so for me speeding up when the light in front of me turns yellow isn't aggressive driving, it is defensive driving. Because there is no way the car desperately trying to tailgate me can or will stop, and the chances there isn't a car desperately trying to tailgate me are extremely small.
    But unfortunately, the drive who is aggressively attempting to intimidate me by tailgating me will not five up just because he/she now have to run a red to continue the attempt. The only thing that will end the frenzy triggered by the sight of a motorcycle in traffic is that the motorcycle disappears from sight. This is why all states ought to allow lane splitting, as it allows motorcyclists to leave the sight of aggressive motorcycle-haters much easier and quicker.

  4. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 19, 2014 #

    How about them Sunday drivers?? 45 speed limit and there are 2 up ahead, 1 in each lane, barely doing 39. Lines backed up to kingdom come. No way out. What to do?? Do you all start honking? Take an alt. Route? Any solutions?

  5. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Clifton A. Wilson
    May 20, 2014 #

    I am very aware of many people who chose to attempt to drive and talk on their cell phone with one hand on the wheel the other on the phone on their ear. The local laws make it illegal to talk while driving. I see drivers on school grounds doing this in violation of the laws to protect the children. It is impossible for officers to be every where. It is up to the drivers to be responsible for their actions. I pray they never injure while I am a witness. I will fill charges if I can if they injure in my presence while violating the laws. I have had site driver training for over twenty years @ A.T.&T. and drive defensively every where. The injuries I avoid are mine and those of family and friends.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 22, 2014 #

      Driving and texting? pft, that's an everyday activity here in South Fla. The go at 60, in the left lane, driving, texting, talking, eating, and believe it or not, even with the newspaper, folded over the wheel…

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 23, 2014 #

      You forgot applying makeup, shaving, putting shoes on and all of the other things that OAriasO has mentioned. Here in Atl, texting while driving is almost expected these days. Most of the texting is not even important….just general conversation and just because it is done at a stop light does not make it any better. I can't stand people who text and drive.

  6. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 21, 2014 #

    There are a lot of terrible drivers out on the road today , some of the things I really cant stand are people going under the limit by ten miles an hour like they own the road , I always seem to get behind one of these idiots when I'm late for an appointment too and it's usually on a two lane road and they're often on a cel phone !

    At the opposite end of the spectrum you have those people who seem to think the speed limit means go at least this fast or faster ! That's just nuts .
    And the way people bunch up and cut in and out ? Boy don't get me started !

    The DOT did some studies that prove if trafic doesn't bunch up it moves along faster and smother , the English version DOT found that by going slower with a reduced speed limit people got from point A to B much more quickly with less congestion and more safely to boot!

    I think we all need to change the way we drive especially in populated areas and change up some DOT rules while we're at it .

    Keep it safe out there folks !

  7. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 21, 2014 #

    Don't feel like I'm aggressive driver. I just stay alert and watch my surrounding. Never in a hurry to get any where.

  8. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Frustrated Proofreader
    May 22, 2014 #

    If you are going to write a public article/response, you need to proofread before sending. Typos are more frustrating than aggressive drivers!!!!

  9. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 22, 2014 #

    Well, I took the test, I guess I did great. I have driven for 24 years and everything this article recommends is exactly how I have lasted. I have seen road ragers (get shot cause they got angry). It is definitely worth just being calm in all situations even when you know someone is in the wrong. Consider that 1 out of ten drivers are a teen. Consider that 3 out of 10 are over 60.
    Consider that 1 out of 1000 know all the rules of the road. Perhaps just a little common sense is your best bet on the road. But thats just an opinion.

  10. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Denver co
    May 22, 2014 #

    I do not think honking at people who are driving slow in the left lane is being aggressive, it is just being assertive. If anything, these bad drivers who do this (which is illegal in many states) cause the aggression in others by breaking the law and being selfish.

  11. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 22, 2014 #

    Sounds to me like an opinionated article of what the writer defines as an aggressive driver. I'm a passionate driver and can relate to some of the driving mentioned in this article.

  12. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 22, 2014 #

    Just an observation. You people with pickup trucks do NOT own the road, and you definitely don't own the left lane. I drive the speed limit because I value my safety and that of others. When you tailgate me, I am going to go SLOWER, not faster. Tailgating doesn't get you what you want but it will get you a ticket.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 22, 2014 #

      drrdc….. You shouldn't be allowed on the road. You are the instigator of aggressive behavior. You may not be in an accident, but you cause them, just like you enjoy causing confrontations and arguments.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 23, 2014 #

      just from 2 of the comments i have seen you leave, YOU are one of the reasons people get frustrated.
      apparently, you feel the need to assert yourself whenever you feel the need. according to you, it's fine and dandy to ride the left lane if you are going the speed limit. here's a clue….it's not fine nor dandy.
      and, you think that if someone is tailgating you…..you opt to simply slow down. don't move over….just slow down, so that the guy behind you gets even more antsy.
      so….i guess you would rather assert your assumed 'rights', than to avoid a confrontation. very stupid, my friend.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 23, 2014 #

      And that would be the reason people get frustrated with you. Tailgaiting can get you a ticket but so can driving below the speed limit. You are lucky someone hasn't become enraged with you and slammed into your back end.

  13. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 22, 2014 #

    "When someone tries to merge at the last minute, you “teach them a lesson” by not letting them in"

    This is woefully incorrect – the person merging at the last minute is the aggressive driver. They're trying to make everyone else accommodate them but making dangerously rapid lane changes or trying to squeeze past someone without waiting. What you're saying is that maintaining one's lawful right-of-way and refusing to cave to someone's self-entitled bullying is "aggression".

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      May 23, 2014 #

      I agree. These last minute mergers are tthe aggressive drivers and by letting them in it just encourages the behavior as well as making the driver behind you angry. No one is so important that they cannot wait in line like everyone else. Last minute mergers are the reason we have lengthy delays whe two lanes merge into one. I totally agree with you pahana.

  14. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Michele Davis
    May 22, 2014 #

    those 4 questions really make you think, wow, Ive been one of those drivers! And recently i did a job in another state, I had no idea even with GPS when the street i was looking for would pop up, naturally i was driving slow trying to find it, even with my out of State Plates, people were losing it.
    So from then on, I try to be more courteous on the road. Someone told me one time… treat people like they are on a verge of a nervous breakdown in all things, that hit me like a ton of bricks, because life is so stressful, that person may be on the verge of one.. Lets chill out on the road!!!

  15. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 22, 2014 #

    Sign of the end days. Biblical.

  16. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    james curtis
    May 22, 2014 #

    This is some bull I can't drive because other people don't know how.

  17. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    James Farris
    May 22, 2014 #

    I spend a lot of time in the Philippines and possess a Filipino Driver's License.
    I refused to drive for the first 4 months due to the horrific traffic congestion, lack of Law Enforcement, poor or non-existent traffic control signage or traffic lights.
    Most of you have no idea of the LACK OF COMMON COURTESY that is rampant here.
    What I see in most of the statements above are indicating the exact same thing.
    Lack of respect and common courtesy for one another.
    Please Drive Friendly!!

  18. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    May 22, 2014 #

    •You hit the gas when the light turns yellow – If it already close to the light, yes. Don't slam on the brakes!
    •When someone tries to merge at the last minute, you “teach them a lesson” by not letting them in. Yes, because idiots always try to get one more car length ahead and don't get in when then could have .
    •You blare your horn when someone is slow to respond to a green light Not blare, but if you're slow, you're probably not paying attention and on your stupid phone!
    •You’re frustrated by a slow driver in the left lane, so you ride their bumper or zoom past them on the right. Yes, it's a law that you must pull over and not impede the flow….it's not your road!

    Four ways that are too broad and tailored to get the answers it was intended to get! Typical of polls these days.

  19. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Roger Wiley
    May 22, 2014 #

    I drive a truck, over the road, for a living. Im sorry. You cant fix stupid. Every one of these people will continue to hold the phone, text, and attempt to merge like a horse with blinders on. After all, what they are doing or where they are going is far more important than anything I can possibly imagine. I only pray that their stupidity doesn't cost me a life term in prison.

  20. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Sharon Colmus
    May 23, 2014 #

    The agressive drivers that I have seen are men in their suvs and trucks. They tailgate within inches of the vehicle in front of them and then speed by the people driving the speed limit. They think they own the roads and everybody else better watch out. They will even try a scare tactic and then laugh about it. I have seen that happen too many times.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your email address will be kept private.