Road Rage Warning as Virginians Pack the Roads This Holiday

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Road rage - Angry driver

It is an exodus of Biblical proportions, as more than 97 million Americans, including 2.4 million Washington metro area residents, drive to their destinations for the holy days and holidays. But all that traffic and congestion on the highways during the Christmas season could bring out the worst in people, including increased stress, aggression and harassment behind the wheel. All that brake-checking, cursing, loud honking, and cutting others off at the exit ramp during the busiest time on the roads.

Some naughty drivers have resorted to brandishing guns and knives behind the wheel during the holidays. Drivers must remain mindful of road rage during busy holiday travel periods, advises AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“Minor frustrations have the potential to turn deadly if drivers act out their anger on the road,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Travelers should be sure to pack their patience and remember to be respectful when behind the wheel this holiday season.”

With a third of the populace traveling, the roadways can become powder kegs this time of the year.  Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

  • A year ago, a 20-year-old college junior was shot and killed while driving her friends home from a New Year’s Eve Party in north Texas. Police in Denton, Texas described the incident as a “deadly case of road rage.” She was the “designated driver” when she and her passengers came “under fire after a verbal altercation with people” riding in a SUV.
  • Bullets were flying in a road rage incident on New Year’s Eve in Pasco County, Florida in 2016. The victim said the other driver came “out of nowhere and cut me off.” She also told the police she came “within six inches of dying.”
  • Last Christmas Eve, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) was summoned to the scene of a shooting incident involving two drivers a block from the old Walter Reed Army Hospital.  Reportedly, MPDC detectives and gumshoes investigated the incident as a “possible road rage.”
  • On Christmas Eve 2015, the Maryland State Police arrested a driver for waving and pointing a gun at a mother and her two young children who were riding in another vehicle on Interstate 95 in Harford County.

Approximately 8 million U.S. drivers engaged in more extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver. As a record-breaking 97.4 million drivers hit the road for the holidays, AAA warns drivers to avoid aggression when behind the wheel this holiday season. The holidays can be stressful as drivers head to busy shopping centers for that perfect gift or battle congested freeways while traveling, forewarns AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Nearly 3 in 4 drivers believe that aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago, while nine out of ten believe aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their personal safety.

AAA offers these tips to help prevent road rage this holiday season:

  • Do Not Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it is not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and contact 9-1-1 if needed.