Aggressive driving has consequences.

Elisa Birnbaum February 11, 2020
Frustrated female driver in traffic.

After dropping off your child at daycare, you jump back in the car and rush off to a doctor’s appointment. But what’s with all the traffic? Before long, you’re downright cranky and eager to find any way to make that appointment on time.

We’ve all been there. But, before you do something rash, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) reminds drivers to consider the long-term consequences of aggressive driving.

“It’s one of the leading causes of death and injury on our roadways.”

Injury is common.

Schmidt says aggressive driving not only puts you in danger, it endangers the lives of pedestrians and fellow drivers. In fact, speed-related crashes (often related to aggressive driving) have led to 57 fatalities in 2019. And every one of those incidents was preventable.

From speeding and tailgating to making excessive lane changes, dodging and weaving through traffic, intentionally preventing another driver from passing, and cutting off others on the road, aggressive driving includes many behaviours. But the one thing they all have in common is the choice of not sharing the road responsibly.You may think it’s mostly prevalent in the summertime, when ‘souped up’ cars parade the streets, speakers blaring and tires squealing. But aggressive driving is common throughout the year, Schmidt confirms. “It can manifest itself in every commuter’s drive in and out of work every day when they start getting behind schedule due to congestion and slowdowns.”

Immediacy culture has consequences.

“We’ve become a society of immediacy,” echoes Elliott Silverstein, CAA director, government relations. “Everyone is in demand, connected, running from place to place.” And within that culture of “now”, safety is sometimes compromised. But don’t forget that driving is a privilege. “You don’t want to put yourself in a position where the action you take prevents you from using your vehicle,” Silverstein adds.

Keep in mind that aggressive drivers can now be convicted of careless driving causing bodily harm or death. And that conviction could result in a fine of between $2,000 and $50,000, six demerit points and a licence suspension of up to five years. It could also bring two years of jail time.

Being classified as a high-risk driver can impact insurance rates and your coverage policy, Silverstein says. “A lot of people express frustration around the cost of auto insurance but, for those with that type of behaviour, it will only get more expensive.”

Take your time.

To avoid driving aggressively, Schmidt suggests you adopt a different mindset. Don’t blame your frustration on the person in front of you or the traffic conditions. “If you feel you’ve been wronged, that will affect your ability to be rational and calm.” And remember that you’re not anonymous on the road. Not only can your license plate identify you, you’re probably driving next to the same group of people every morning, all of whom have adopted daily routines just like you.

Plan ahead, give yourself time to get where you need to go. “Don’t be that driver who’s pushing the limit and trying to save a couple of seconds by pushing through that amber or red light,” he says. “You stand out like a sore thumb to anyone watching your behaviour.”

What if you’re faced with an aggressive driver on the road? 

Ignore them, Schmidt says. Don’t provoke their behaviour even more with gestures or vigilante justice. Consider how your behavior may have impacted the frustration. Are you in the left lane going less than their speed limit? Are you blocking them? “We see all kinds of drivers completely oblivious to the responsibility of sharing the roads,” Schmidt shares.

Remember that everyone has a story. A difficult situation may be stressing out your fellow driver today, but that can be your story tomorrow.  If possible, move over and let them pass.

Finally, be mindful. You may think you’re saving precious seconds in the moment but think of the price you may pay for that one immediate action.

For more road safety tips, visit www.caasco.com/roadsafety