Is it me, or have you also noticed that since returning to the streets after the COVID-19 shutdown, drivers are driving more aggressively and are far less courteous? Whether you have noticed this or not, the numbers indicate that hostilities on the roads have increased since the March 2020 shutdown.
According to the AAA, the number of road rage incidents involving shootings in the U.S. has increased yearly. In 2019 there were 694 such incidents with 39% of them resulting in injury or death.
But here is what’s worrisome - although the number of people driving decreased substantially in 2020, the number of road rage shootings increased to 702, with 49% involving injury or death.
In 2021, that number increased to 728 with 62% involving injury or death. 2022 statistics are still being counted, but the numbers have again increased. So, what is happening and how can we reverse this horrible trend?
Why Are Road Rage Incidents Increasing?
The Covid shutdown had some very negative effects on Americans. It is well recognized that the stress related to Covid created a mental health crisis that has inevitably affected how we treat each other. Also, it is difficult to find anything in the media these days that isn’t divisive.
Lately, it seems like people can’t have a civil conversation about politics or social issues without getting into a heated argument. All of this influences how we interact with one another and this does not translate well when we are behind the wheel.
Maybe the solution that I am suggesting seems too simple, but I think it’s worth a try. BE NICE! I will use WAWA as an example.
I live in the northeast and here, we have WAWA convenience stores. For those of you not familiar, WAWAs are kind of like 7-Elevens, but on major steroids. Inevitably, when you walk into a WAWA, the person walking in front of you will hold the door.
I mean, it is extremely rare when they don’t hold the door. It’s a common courtesy. However, that same person who courteously just held the door for you will run you over in the parking lot if your try to pull ahead of them. It really makes me wonder what happens to people when they get behind the wheel.
You probably know someone who is a caring, sweet, quiet, and courteous person in normal everyday encounters. But when driving that person morphs into a villainous character that would rival anything you would see in a Marvel Comics movie. If you’re that person, it’s time for a critical self-assessment.
Best Practices to Avoid Road Rage Incidents
Be nice is a pretty broad suggestion. Let me see if I can put this suggestion into actionable items that are easy to follow. Try these:
- Use your turn signals – every time. When turning, merging, changing lanes, and entering and exiting parking stalls, use your signals. Let other drivers know what you are doing. This will seriously decrease the number of times drivers become angry.
- Yield the right of way. Whether you are at an intersection and you let the other driver go, or you let the person in the lane next to you merge in front of you, it’s the courteous thing to do. It’s not going to cost you any time and you reduce the risk of a road rage incident.
- If someone does something dumb, let it go. If a person is tailgating you, cuts you off, or pulls out in front of you, acknowledge in your mind that the other driver is a dope, but let it go. They aren’t worth it. If you are angry because of the actions of other drivers, and you are focused on them, you are no longer driving your vehicle - they are. Don’t give them that power – let it go.
- Don’t tailgate. Every year the number one reported crash is a rear-end collision. Rear-end collisions occur for two reasons – 1. Not paying attention. 2. Following too closely. Not only does following too closely lead to crashes, but it is also extremely irritating to drivers who are being tailgated. You need to maintain a minimum four-second following distance on the vehicle in front of you. When the vehicle ahead of you passes a mark, start counting – 1,001, 1,002, 1,003, 1,004. If the front of your vehicle passes that mark prior to 1,004, you’re too close. Give it some more distance. I know there are circumstances where maintaining a safe distance is challenging but get into this habit. You may be surprised at how many times you can do this without any difficulty at all.
- If someone on the road is confrontational, do not engage them and move away from that driver. Drop back or take another route. You never know who is in the other vehicle and you do not know their mindset. It is not worth the risk.
Here’s the thing: there will always be aggressive and rude drivers on the road. Work very hard not to be one of them; if you encounter any, be nice. Being nice isn’t going to fix everything, but it’s a good start. So, be well, be safe, and be nice. If you are ever at a WAWA, be sure to hold the door for the person behind you. It’s the nice thing to do.