It’s a beautiful morning, and I’m sitting at a red light waiting to turn left. My car window is down and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy quietly plays on the radio. When the light turns green, the driver behind me continuously blares her horn while I wait for a string of oncoming cars to pass. Once I’m able to safely turn, the car speeds around me and the driver gives me the infamous one-finger salute and angrily tosses her cigarette towards me.
Aggressive driving is extremely common and has increased in recent years. In a survey by the American Automobile Association, 80 percent of drivers reported committing at least one act of aggressive driving in the last year, including tailgating, yelling, or honking to show annoyance with another driver. The most common reasons given for driving aggressively include being upset, stress, running late, and anger.
When taken to the extreme, aggressive driving is known as road rage, and the statistics are sobering. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, in 2021, aggressive driving was the cause of 66 percent of traffic fatalities. It was the deadliest year for road rage with an average of 44 people per month shot and killed or wounded during a road rage incident. Road rage deaths due to gun violence have doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels.
There are some specific things we can do to prevent becoming a victim of road rage. According to WebMD, never return rude gestures or show anger toward an aggressive driver. Don’t make eye contact, as this can further stimulate the perpetrator’s rage. Stay behind a driver displaying aggressive or dangerous behavior. These responses might go against our gut reaction, but they could defuse a deadly situation.
So what can we do to bring more elegance to our own driving? Inspired by Town and Country magazine’s long-running etiquette column, Car and Driver magazine compiled a list of forty gracious driving rules. Here are ten ways to be a more courteous driver and return civility to our roads and highways.
- Don’t drive under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or emotional distress.
- Give driving your full attention.
- Use your car horn judiciously.
- Use your turn signals.
- Pull over for emergency vehicles.
- Obey speed limits and other traffic signs.
- Yield to pedestrians.
- Don’t throw trash, including cigarette butts, out car windows.
- Give helpful drivers a wave of thanks.
- If another driver is inconsiderate, take the high road.
National Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, recently said our country is experiencing “a national crisis of fatalities and injuries on our roadways.” Elegant, courteous behavior isn’t just a nice idea. It’s a habit that can save lives, and there’s no better place to practice elegance than while driving. §
“Show respect even to people that don’t deserve it;
not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.”
~ Dave Willis