Road rage and aggressive driving
There is widespread public concern about the increasing incidence and severity of aggressive driver behaviours.
European research suggests that drivers feel more threatened by aggressive behaviour than drink driving (Townsend and Avenoso 2008, p24).
Frequent reports of ‘road rage’ encompass a broad range of unacceptable retaliations to road user behaviour from rude gestures or swearing to assault or murder, and the normalisation of ‘road rage’ is believed to contribute to the increase in this type of behaviour (Watson in Sunshine Coast Daily 2009).
The RACQ acknowledges that driving is a complex task, which places varying demands on the driver according to different environments. How drivers behave can have a dramatic effect on reactions from other road users. Therefore, care, courtesy and awareness are all very important attributes of a safe road user.
As a counter to aggressive and ‘me first’ driving behaviour, the RACQ promotes a ‘sharing the road’ courteous approach to road use.
TNS Opinion research conducted for RYD also found a link between drivers who show aggressive behaviour on the road in turn being subjected to aggressive road user behaviour (2008, p32).
Promoting courtesy among road users should therefore result in a reduction of aggressive driver behaviour.
RACQ advice to drivers to help avoid aggressive driver behaviour is to:
- Remain calm and relaxed
- Drive defensively and make allowances for errors by others
- Adopt a ‘share the road’ rather than a ‘me first’ approach to driving
- Use the horn sparingly and only as a warning device
- Leave unpleasant encounters or delays in the past and concentrate on the rest of the trip
- Don’t try to police other road users’ behaviours
Since 2000 (Peters 2007, p21), the Queensland Police Service’s state-wide traffic complaints system has allowed recording of complaints made by members of the public in relation to the driving behaviour of other road users, and served as a management and intelligence resource for the Queensland Police Service (Queensland Police Service 2009).
Members of the public wishing to make complaints are advised to make complaints in person at a police station, where the officer enters the complaint into the system (Queensland Police Service 2009). Further investigation of complaints is based on the seriousness of the offence and the likelihood of obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution, with traffic complaints that clearly identify an offending driver or vehicle being thoroughly investigated (Queensland Police Service 2009). In instances where the offending driver or vehicle cannot be clearly identified, location-based education, awareness and enforcement may be an option (Queensland Police Service 2009).
The Queensland Police Service (2009) advises that from 2007 to 20 April 2009, a total of 7,490 traffic complaints were recorded on the complaints system and that of these, 5,840 have been closed or finalised. Traffic complaints can often result in infringement notices or cautions being issued (Queensland Police Service 2009).
It is important that rather than trying to enforce road rules themselves, drivers inform police of inappropriate road user behaviour.
RACQ research in 2011 into the most concerning/annoying road user behaviours suggests that Queensland drivers are most concerned about:
- Drivers who follow too closely/tailgate.
- Motorists who increase their speed when you try to overtake them.
- Motorists who throw litter out of vehicles.
- Motorists talking/sending text messages on hand-held mobile phones.
- Motorists who incorrectly use indicators e.g., indicate too late or fail to indicate at all
- Motorists displaying aggressive behaviour e.g., blowing horn, verbal abuse, hand signals.
- Motorists who are not courteous e.g., allowing room to merge/change lanes.
- Motorists who do not move over to allow others to overtake.
- Motorists who block intersections.
- Motorists who turn from the wrong lane e.g., at multi-lane roundabouts.