Shoppers rushing home with their treasures this holiday season can add another thing to their to-do lists: Stay alert for the signs of aggressive driving in other drivers or perhaps even bubbling up in themselves.
While the holidays are generally considered a happy time of year, many people are under considerable stress trying to wrap up all the things they want to get done. Mix stress with other factors and the opportunity for aggressive driving heightens.
Factors in holiday driving
- More people. During the shopping season, there are typically more people on the streets and freeways than at other times of the year and the roads may be busy at additional times during the day and evening. When out-of-towners come in to shop or visit, their unfamiliarity with the location can add to the congestion.
- Seasonal stress. Don't have enough time to get everything done? You're not the only one. Tensions and frustration can creep up on even the best drivers and can cause them to lose their cool.
- Poor weather. Driving in winter conditions can slow down traffic. Drivers who are already irritable may become impatient and take unnecessary chances on slippery roads.
- Too much celebrating. When folks start the party early then hit the roads, it's a recipe for disaster. Even a little alcohol can make some drivers more aggressive; larger quantities simply make drivers dangerous.
Avoid aggressive driving behavior
- Don't hit the gas pedal. Plan extra time to get to your destination to account for weather conditions, heavy traffic or parking lot congestion.
- Plan ahead. Anticipate that traffic will be heavier and give yourself more time to maneuver in holiday crowds. Back off the speed and don't tailgate as it's one of the top triggers of aggressive driving incidents. Another trigger? Making frequent or last-minute lane changes. Where possible, stay in the lane that will be closest to your planned exit to avoid sudden moves.
- Start off calm. Don't go out to shop if you're already stressed. Other drivers' actions may immediately set you on edge, prompting you to respond negatively.
- Stay alert. Focus on the job of driving rather than on all the details you have to take care of. Watch the traffic patterns and keep an eye on drivers who are speeding or driving erratically.
- Take a deep breath. Find a way to stay calm in tense situations. Keep breathing, play holiday music or listen to a book on tape. When witnessing aggressive driving, don't make eye contact or respond in kind to an aggressive driver. Both actions may fuel the driver's anger. Recognize that aggressive driving is not personal and it's not a race. Move out of the way of those who are driving erratically.