Combating Aggressive Drivers

By David Kolman

Encountering “crazed” drivers has, sadly, become a regular occurrence, which is making driving even more perilous. These drivers — on four-wheels as well as trucks — exhibit aggressive and reckless driving behavior that endangers themselves and others. In the anonymity of their vehicles, they take out their frustration, impatience and irritability on other drivers by harassing them without any concern for others on the road.
They speed, follow other vehicles too closely, fail to yield, and weave in and out of traffic frequently or abruptly without signaling. They pass on the right or on the shoulder or other unpaved areas next to the roadway. They run stop signs and red lights. And all the while, they frequently make rude hand and facial gestures, scream, honk and flash their lights.
In extreme cases, aggressive driving turns into road rage, a situation wherein a driver deliberately tries to harm another as a result of something that happened while the other driver was driving. Such altercations on the roadway put the safety of those two drivers and others in jeopardy. Road rage can end in collisions and senseless personal attacks.
Despite what you might think, there is no typical aggressive driver. It runs the gamut of society — from young males to “soccer moms” to successful, well-educated people. What’s more, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows the “incidents that lead to aggressive driving behavior are often trivial in nature, and not something you might think would cause the explosions that characterize road rage.”
The NHTSA reports that “violent traffic disputes are rarely the result of a single incident. Rather, they are the cumulative result of a long series of stressors in the driver’s life. The traffic incident that turns violent is often the ‘last straw.’”
The three key factors linked to aggressive driving, according to the report, are a lack of responsible driving behavior, reduced levels of traffic violation enforcement and more traffic congestion, especially in urban areas.
Aggressive driving behaviors lead to accidents, which in turn leads to lost productivity and wages, repair costs and higher insurance rates. But few drivers and companies consider the costs that come from higher fuel, tire and maintenance costs. Aggressive drivers tend to push their vehicles. They accelerate hard, wasting fuel and placing additional stresses on the drivetrain.
They speed and weave, which also drives up fuel consumption and hastens suspension and tire wear. And they tailgate, leading to heavy brake application, causing faster wear-out of brake systems and tires.
Avoiding problems
Safety and law enforcement officials offer the following advice to help drivers stay safe when confronted by an aggressive driver. Be sure to share this information with your drivers.
• Stay calm and relaxed.
• Avoid eye contact.
• Steer clear and make every attempt to get out of the aggressive driver’s way.
• Don’t challenge or confront an aggressive driver. This could make matters worse. Never underestimate another driver’s potential for aggressive behavior.
• Use your horn sparingly.
• Ignore inappropriate hand or facial gestures, and do not return them.
• Resist any attempts by an aggressive driver to engage you verbally.
• If you have a cell phone and can use it safely, report aggressive driving incidents to local law enforcement. Provide them with a vehicle description, license plate number, location and direction of travel.
• Be a cautious and courteous driver. Avoid creating a situation that may provoke another motorist. For example, do not tailgate. Or, if you are in the left lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let the driver by.
• Realize that you may be an aggressive driver. When someone cuts you off in traffic or doesn’t signal their intention, do you become angry and agitated? Try and convince yourself  that the driver may not have deliberately made an error to purposely upset another driver.
• Don’t respond to another driver’s “stupid move” with anger. This can result in the other driver reacting equally, creating even more anger.
Each of us is responsible for your own driving behavior, say safety and law enforcement officials. When driving, they emphasis always keeping the Golden Rule in mind: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
Courteous driving encourages other drivers to be courteous. Aggressive driving influences others to drive aggressively as well.
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator, keynote speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor’s staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively participates in trade associations and reports news and information about the trucking industry for broadcasting and print media.
Winter-driving tip: thawing frozen air lines
Some simple do’s and don’ts for preventing air lines from freezing, and for thawing them should they become frozen, from Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, a supplier of air brake charging and control systems and components for commercial vehicles.
• Check the air dryer for proper operation, changing the desiccant cartridge and purge valve as necessary.
• Thaw out frozen air lines and valves by placing the vehicle in a warmed building. This is the only method for thawing that will not cause damage to the air system or its components.
• Use dummy hose couplings on the tractor and trailer.
• Check for drooping air lines, which could form water traps.
• Don’t apply an open flame to air lines or valves. This practice is unsafe and can result in a vehicle fire. It also can damage the valve and melt the air lines.
• Don’t pour fluids into air lines or glad hands. Certain fluids can cause immediate and severe damage to rubber components. Even methanol, which is used in alcohol evaporators and injectors, should not be poured into air lines. Fluids poured into the system wash lubricants out of valves, collect in brake chambers and valves, and can cause malfunction.
• Don’t immediately park a vehicle outside after thawing its air system indoors. Condensation will form in the system and re-freeze. Place the vehicle in operation when it is removed to the outdoors.