Anyone who has ever visited New York City will notice how overwhelmingly action-packed it can be at all hours of the day. Sidewalks are packed with people; streets are filled with taxis, vehicles, and buses, while pedestrians, trying to hurry to the subway or across town, dodge moving vehicles surprisingly quickly and sometimes erratically. Many film buffs recall one of Dustin Hoffman’s most famous movie lines, “I’m walkin’ here!”, when his character, “Ratso Rizzo”, is almost struck by an impatient driver. Decades have passed since the famous scene was filmed and New York’s streets have not become any less crowded, in fact, the population in NYC continues to grow with approximately 8.3 million residents in a small space of a little over 302 square miles. Reportedly, out of 3 million households in NYC, only 1.4 million households own a vehicle. Imagine if more households owned a car, the already crowded streets would be impossible to navigate. Crowded streets, delays, and the overall feeling of needing to rush, create the perfect, volatile recipe for aggressive driving. Whether you are a lifelong New Yorker or a tourist, mesmerized by a metropolis full of culture, it’s important to spot aggressive drivers and stay out of harm’s way.
An Example of Aggressive Driving, a Nightmare Come to Life
Unless you’ve been disconnected from all sources of mass media for the last month, you have heard about and watched the horrific footage from an incident in New York involving a motorcycle gang and a young family driving down the same road. The incident is one of many all too real and tragic examples of aggressive driving on U.S. roadways. The group of motorcyclists surrounded a SUV, following dangerously close and making threats to the driver of the vehicle then damaged the vehicle, and physically assaulting the driver after he had run over a fallen motorist while trying to escape the aggressive group. The shocking video footage, filmed with a motorcycle helmet camera, went viral quickly. While a majority of aggressive driving incidents are not caught on camera or involving a gang or angry motorcycle “bullies,” the unfortunate incident opened the eyes of all motorists; hopefully making them think twice about some of their own driving behaviors.
Are You an Aggressive Driver?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately one third of all fatal traffic accidents involve an aggressive driver. Aggressive drivers are everywhere, not just the crowded streets of NYC or the jammed freeways of L.A. An aggressive driver can be the lone driver down a gravel country road or hurried driver running late for work. If you, as a motorist, have the “need for speed,” slow down because you may be an “Aggressive Driver.” According to the National Safety Council, the profile of an aggressive driver may include driving at excessive speeds, unnecessary and frequent lane changes (sometimes failing to use signals), tailgating, excessive horn use, obscene gestures, threatening motions or eye contact. If your driving behavior includes any of the aggressive driving tendencies, you need to reevaluate the way you drive.
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If you want to be a safer, less aggressive driver you should consider making the following changes, including, but not limited to:
- Keep your emotions in check. Don’t take out a “bad day” on your driving. No one else needs to or deserves to feel threatened by you.
- Stop tailgating. If you fail to keep enough distance between you and the car in front of you (approximately one car length), you may find yourself in a collision; especially if the car in front of you needs to brake suddenly. Think the driver is going too slow? Keep your distance and pass when it’s safe and legal.
- Give yourself enough time. Many drivers are in a hurry, never leaving them enough time to get somewhere on time. As more cars crowd our busy streets and highways it’s only natural that drive time will slow down. If you need to, rearrange your schedule or leave your house earlier than usual.
- Focus on your own driving. Many aggressive drivers fail to pay attention to their own driving when they spend most of the commute critiquing other drivers. Yes, sometimes an elderly person or a new parent with an infant passenger drives slower than the posted speed limit. This does not give you the right to follow closely, putting lives in danger. Chances are, some other driver thinks you are driving like a “jerk.”
Stay Safe on Roads Filled with Aggressive Drivers
Aggressive drivers can make any motorist nervous, often feeling the need to drive “out of control” just to stay out of harm’s way. If you are trying to avoid an aggressive driver, the best tip is to avoid becoming one yourself. Here are some helpful and possible “lifesaving” tips to follow if you encounter an aggressive driver on the road:
- Remain Calm. Almost like a bloody thirsty predator, an aggressive driver can sense fear on the road.
- Keep Your Distance. If you notice someone driving aggressively and erratically ahead of you, keep a safe distance from them.
- Don’t change lanes or pass an aggressive driver unless you think it is safe.
- Pull over to safety (when safe) and call 9-1-1. Even if you wrote down the driver’s plate numbers, it may or not be helpful. In New York, for example, police officers need to witness the aggressive driver, themselves, before charging the driver with illegal and irresponsible behavior.
New York City is a metropolis full of exciting and at not-so-wonderful things, including aggressive, nervous, and eccentric drivers. Enjoy the culture and the scenery, but don’t become a scary, aggressive driver putting everyone’s life at risk!
Special thanks to the Ginarte Law firm for providing insight and statistics on recent aggressive driving accidents throughout the greater NYC area.
About this guest author:
Jacob Masters is a freelance writer and author who has worked in the health industry for over a decade. His goal in life is to increase the internet knowledge base one article at a time. He also likes to push the boundaries through his city-wide evening excursions as a guerilla gardener.
Editor’s opinion: Someday, maybe soon, technology will reduce road rage in a significant way. Even so, I doubt it would be something easy to measure. In terms of noticeability, we New Yorkers are so accustomed to road rage that we treat it as part of normal everyday life. For us to collectively sense a reduction in road rage would be a big deal indeed. So, to all you adventurous devs out there, here are 3 questions of opportunity for you to snack on: What are the components of road rage? How might apps or other technologies help change those components? Gridlock Alert Days are real official things the City of New York forewarns the media about! How might a special app, for instance, reduce the formation of gridlocked intersections? The early stage of road rage can often be traced to getting stuck in gridlock and then subsequently trying to “make up for lost time” once someone finally escapes from it. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – Can tech solutions serve as an effective form of prevention? I think so – Let’s put tech to work in creating a better and happier New York!
- Featured image license: Royalty Free or iStock