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“Road Rage” and accidents, injuries and death on our highways

A road rage incident in Lincoln County last week reminds us of some of the inherent dangers that exist on the road that we don’t always plan for.  It’s sometimes the risks we don’t plan for that create the greatest dangers.  A friend of mine, when turning the keys over to his sixteen year old newly driving son, reminds him that every time he leaves the driveway, he creates an “accident opportunity.”   That “accident opportunity” doesn’t just depend on how carefully you operate your own vehicle, but also includes dealing with the driving behavior of others – and keeping your head, when the behavior of others  becomes irrational.

A 1995 study was commissioned by the Road Safety Unit of the Automobile Association of Great Britain and found that 90 percent of drivers had experienced road rage in the previous 12 months. A 1996 study by the Gallup organization found that more people felt threatened by aggressive drivers than drunk drivers.

One study found from January 1990 through September of 1996, at least 10,037 incidents of aggressive driving were cited in accidents.  From those incident, 218 people lost their lives and 12,610 people were injured.

It has been estimated that at least 1500 individuals suffer serious injury or death each year in the United States as a result of senseless disputes and altercations arising from traffic issues.  Perhaps surprisingly, the perpetrators don’t fit a consistent profile and involve people of all ages, both sexes, and all socio-economic backgrounds.

Some suggestions for drivers to avoid being involved with these altercations include:

Avoid blocking the passing lane – yield to the right for any vehicle that wishes to pass you.

Avoid tailgating those in front of you – always maintain a safe distance.

Remember to signal and to turn your signal off.

Avoid gestures – gesturing has resulted in people being shot, stabbed and beaten in every state and simply isn’t worth the risk of harm.

Use your horn sparingly, reserving it for safety issues.

Avoid the right hand turn lane at a stop light if you are not turning right.

Be considerate of others when parking, keeping a clear distance from other cars and stay within one parking space.

Be careful and considerate about high and low headlight beam use.

Allow people to merge by getting out of the right hand acceleration lane, or by accelerating or braking to make way for the merging vehicle.

Pull over occasionally to allow others to pass on two lane roads if you need to travel slower or more carefully than others – for instance when pulling a trailer.

Watch your use of cellphones and other distractions that can cause you to be inattentive to the driving conditions around you.

Finally, if confronted by an aggressive driver,  avoid making eye contact. Simply get out of their way.  If an aggressive driver pursues you, do not stop and get out of the car or go home. Rather, drive to a police station, convenience store or other location where you will have the safety of other people and witnesses.

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