According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), roughly 1/3 of fatal car accidents nationwide involve aggressive driving, such as speeding. Sadly, a recent study conducted by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA) concluded that speeding and other aggressive behaviors are what make it so difficult to reduce the fatality rate on our roads.
New York and New Jersey are not immune to the effects of aggressive driving. To the contrary, because both states contain many congested streets and highways, aggression on the road is more common in New York and New Jersey than other states. In fact, statistics show that in New York, aggressive driving contributes to 59% of all car crashes and 66% of all fatal collisions!
New York and New Jersey Aggressive Driving Laws
The state of New York defines aggressive driving as “operating a motor vehicle in a selfish, bold or pushy manner, without regard for the rights and safety of other users of the streets and highways.” People who witness behaviors that fall within that definition of aggressive driving are encouraged to report what they see to the police immediately because authorities are not able to issue a ticket unless an officer sees the aggressive behavior as well.
In contrast to New York that does not currently have a separate set of laws to combat aggressive driving, New Jersey is one of a handful of states that has created set of penalties specifically designed to put an end to aggression on the road. For example, aggressive drivers in New Jersey who cause a serious accident can now face up to 5 years in prison. Driving more than 25 mph above the speed limit and following another car too closely are also punishable acts of “aggressive driving” under the reckless and careless driving laws in New Jersey.
Aggressive Driving Behavior in New York and New Jersey
Because roadways are becoming more and more crowded, aggressive driving has become increasingly common in both New York and New Jersey. Drivers often react to congestion on the roads with elevated levels of frustration, and although understandable, it is still entirely unacceptable.
- Repeated and/or unsafe lane changes (weaving),
- Failure to signal a lane change or turn,
- Failure to yield to the driver with the right of way,
- Running traffic lights, and
- Driving while impaired.
To protect yourself in an encounter with an aggressive driver on the road, you should:
- Stay calm,
- Maintain a safe distance,
- Do not pass the aggressive driver unless there is no alternative, and
- Once it is safe to do so, change lanes and move out of the aggressive driver’s way.
- If you are being tailgated and cannot change lanes, maintain a safe speed and do not respond to any hostile actions.
It is easy to get angry or emotional if you feel you are the target of an aggressive driver, but responding in an aggressive or hostile manner is likely to make matters worse and make the road less safe for everyone. The better approach is to keep your cool and try to reduce your stress level by focusing on getting your destination safely rather than getting even with the aggressive driver. Common courtesy despite the circumstances and a serious attempt to control your emotions will go a long way toward making sure you and others around you are safe on the road.