Why Aggressive Driving isn't worth the risk

13 Dec 2005 | Lance Cpl. Adam Johnston

Many Marines will be planning long road trips home this holiday season. Now, imagine that you’re just returning from leave and you’re due into work no later than noon. As you enter the Raleigh city limits at 11 a.m., you begin to realize it’s virtually impossible to drive the 125 plus miles between you and Camp Lejeune in less than an hour.

Nevertheless, you decide being late is not an option. No law is going to hold you back; you’re going to make it there on time, no matter what.

Seventy-five miles per hour?  Nope, much too slow. You drive 90 mph. Slow drivers in the fast lane?  Not acceptable. You ride their bumpers until they get a clue and move out of your way. Yellow lights?  Hah!  As far as you’re concerned, yellow means you’d better hurry up or you’ll be forced to run a red light.

What you don’t realize is that by speeding, tailgating and ignoring traffic lights, you are displaying some of the very same behaviors which cause approximately one-third of the nation’s 6.8 million crashes each year. You are an aggressive driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines aggressive driving as the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.

“In my opinion, aggressive driving is caused by people’s impatience,” said Officer Mark A. Ketchum, an officer with the Jacksonville Police Department’s Traffic Division. “People trying to drive from point A to point B without slowing down or stopping are more likely to get emotional.”

Unlike road rage, which is a criminal offense, aggressive driving is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in the state of North Carolina.

“Road rage is when a driver specifically goes after another person with the intent to disrupt or harm them,” said Ketchum. “An aggressive driver doesn’t intentionally set out to hurt anyone, but their bad driving habits can yield the same results.”

A person convicted of aggressive driving is subject to possible jail time, suspension of license and monetary fines, according to North Carolina Statute 20-141.6.

“Aggressive driving usually occurs in high traffic areas such as Western Boulevard, NC17 during rush hour and NC24 near the main gate when the base lets out,” said Ketchum.

Just as aggressive driving is more likely to occur in heavy traffic, it is also more likely to be associated with a certain age group and gender.

“The majority of aggressive drivers are typically males between the ages of 19 and 24,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel P. Schismenos, the traffic chief for the Provost Marshal’s Office. “Although, that doesn’t mean a 25 year old female won’t drive aggressively either.”

Schismenos, who is a member of the governor’s executive committee for Aggressive Driving, is working to set up a program on base, which will combat aggressive driving.

“As of now, there is nothing in the base regulations that specifically defines aggressive driving as a traffic law violation,” said Schismenos. “To further ensure the safety of all who drive on base, we are currently working to change this.”

If you ever find yourself in danger of letting your emotions get the best of you, here are some tips you can use to suppress your aggression:

Relax – Tune the radio to your favorite relaxing music. Music can calm your nerves and help you to enjoy your time in the car.

Concentrate – Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by talking on your cellular phone, eating drinking or putting on makeup.

Just be late – If all else fails, just be late.

Allow enough time so you don’t have to speed, beat traffic lights or run stop signs to reach your destination on schedule.

An average of at least 1,500 men, women and children are injured or killed each year in the United States as a result of aggressive driving, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

When you think of it this way, being late for work isn’t the end of the world. Why risk it?