Tarmac Terrorism - Drivers Behaving Badly

We have to tolerate seemingly aggressive and intimidating acts committed by other drivers.

Intolerant and inconsiderate motorists who are driving too fast are unlikely to realise that they're unsafe. They feel perfectly happy with the way they drive, believing that their own attitude is okay they don't see a need to change, after all, it's other drivers that have the problem !
Who are the Tarmac Terrorists?

Who are the anonymous anti-social elements of drivers who have a complete disregard for our society's values ? Are they ...

  • the inexperienced young male drivers, enjoying the thrill of danger showing off to impress their passengers and young female pedestrians?
  • the social misfits? Drivers who don't fit in well into society and who break laws of other kinds.
  • the `Joyriders' who express themselves by driving somebody else's car dangerously fast, ditching and then burning it?
  • the machiavellian Prima Donnas whose style causes antagonism?
  • the drivers of white vans ?
  • just ordinary drivers who have an `easy attitude' towards traffic laws?

Automotive cladding. People of all ages who are by their nature impatient, aggressive and selfish will probably drive the same way, but what is it that attracts polite, considerate people who have an even temperament to disregard danger, take unjustifiable risks and lose their tempers when they get behind the wheel?

Space invaders. Human beings, like animals are territorial. The car's safety space or cushion is an extension of personal territory, so when other vehicles get close we sense that our personal space is being threatened and our driving style can change depending what happens in this space. Compare your driving manners when travelling on business through a busy town, or an overcrowded motorway with when you're on holiday motoring through a quiet village out in the country.

Lifestyle factors. The pressure of a busy lifestyle in a competitive and work orientated society puts drivers in a desperate hurry, looking for any advantage, such as a gap or short-cut. Where territory is `defended' and a manoeuvre is obstructed, the consequences can be lethal.

Domestic troubles at home, or a bad day at work will influence your mood to the extent that you're likely to be less considerate and tolerant of the 'stupid' mistakes made by other road users.

It won't happen to me. All through our lives we calculate risk against advantage in one way or another. Similarly, when we're driving, the ease of a car's handling and implicit belief that its design will protect us, can encourage us into taking deliberate risks.

Your living room on wheels. Inside the cosy cocoon of motor car metal - the outside world is like quickly moving images on a television screen or computer monitor. We feel comfortable with our homely gadgets such as radios, cassettes and telephones. Our human instinct to survive seems to fail as comfort seduces us towards a high risk driving strategy.

Good driving is no accident. Most of the UK's 31.9 million motorists consider themselves good drivers, the evidence they feel supports their claim is that the majority have no endorsements on their licences and almost 60% have a full no claims insurance bonus. How can they be driving badly?

To measure the level of bad driving objectively, the 1994 records for motor vehicle violations show 6.3 million offences, excluding parking occurred, and over the last three years 3.7 million endorsements were issued by the Courts. Several million verbal warnings are issued yearly by traffic police officers in preference to reporting an offence for prosecution.

New drivers under the age of 21 have three times the average of motoring offences. Studies of their style of driving suggests they commit fewer technical errors than drivers in the 20-45 age range, but the mistakes they make are more serious and relate to a failure to anticipate, more likely to lead to dangerous manoeuvring and loss of control.

Road Rage. A human response to any stressful or frustrating situation is anger. Wrapped in our protective metal armour we're less likely to be calm or polite if we're affected by another driver's mistake. Triggers that can start Road Rage include ...

  • Tailgating
  • Failing to signal
  • Holding the middle lane of a dual carriageway or motorway
  • Cutting in at the head of a queue of traffic
  • Preventing other vehicles from entering the traffic flow
  • Using a mobile phone and not concentrating on the road ahead
  • Swooping across motorway lanes to reach an exit
  • Stealing a parking space
  • A learner driver stalling or driving abnormally slow
  • Being overtaken by a motorist exceeding the urban speed limit who then drives relatively slowly on a single carriageway national speed limit road where 60 mph would be safe
  • Any sudden manoeuvre that causes you to brake or steer
  • Ignoring traffic signs or road markings
  • Obscene gestures and verbal abuse
  • Misuse of the horn and headlamps

What may seem a minor traffic violation to the driver making any of the above mistakes, is perceived as aggressive or inconsiderate by others. The incidence of raising tempers and disagreement between drivers seems to become more common place to each generation of drivers as our roads get more congested, fortunately, driver aggression to extent of physical assault is still rare.

Belligerent driving phenomena, commonly associated with young men, is typically a human lifestyle problem as women are becoming increasingly aggressive.

Positive coping strategies

To share the roads without conflict we have to tolerate seemingly aggressive and intimidating acts committed by other drivers. How do we do this ?

  • Never retaliate against acts of bad driving, they could be unintentional mistakes. Rest assured that if you feel that another driver is a dangerous idiot, then everybody else does too!
  • Where another driver is continuously hassling you, avoid over-reacting by accelerating, braking or swerving suddenly and try to avoid eye contact. Drive to a busy place or the nearest police station to get help.
  • When stopped in traffic, keep an escape route, that is enough distance to be able to move out from behind the vehicle in front. Can you see the rear tyres of the car in front and some of the tarmac.
  • Where someone attempts to enter your car, sound your horn repeatedly to attract attention.
  • Driving where traffic is moving slowly, as in towns, lock your doors and keep the windows and sunroof only partially open.
  • Don't even think about carrying any type of weapon. It might provoke a potential assailant who could well grab it and use it against you.

Where bad driving causes you to take avoiding action to prevent a crash or near miss, letting your anger lead to confrontation will achieve little. We cannot do much about the way other drivers use the road, but we can do something about our own driving to make it enjoyable, safer and less stressful ...

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Please include aggressive behavior toward bicyclist.

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