Aggressive Driving Can Lead to Rage

If you lose your cool, someone may lose their life.

That is what Wheeling police Sgt. Ron Didion believes should be learned from a road rage crash Saturday in Ohio County that claimed three lives.

According to reports, David E. Hancher-Palmer and Justin Wright were involved in a disagreement prior to the fatal crash on Interstate 70 near The Highlands. Although that disagreement began prior to them entering their vehicles, there were reports the men exchanged heated words from vehicle-to-vehicle while driving.

Didion, who is the Highway Safety director for Northern West Virginia, said he did not investigate the crash that killed Wright and two others. And although the anger did not begin on the road, he believes the actions taken on the highway are a clear example of “road rage.”

“It started from another source, but the anger was taken to the road,” Didion said. “They become so angry over an extenuating circumstance.”

Didion said it is important for motorists to understand that “road rage” is different than “aggressive driving.” He said aggressive driving is best described as a series of traffic violations that place lives in danger. Didion said speeding, failing to use turn signals and following too closely are examples of aggressive driving.

He said aggressive driving can lead to road rage.

“Road rage is a criminal offense that occurs when the traffic incident escalates into a far more serious situation,” Didion said. “It evolves from aggressive driving.”

Didion said he believes that section of I-70, known as Two Mile Hill, is conducive to aggressive driving, although he does not believe location was a factor in Saturday’s crash. He said the steep decline in the westbound lane leads to excessive speeds while the steep incline in the opposite direction results in congestion. He said both sides of the highway create fear and frustration for motorists, and increased police presence is needed.

Didion said everyone has experienced anger behind the wheel. He said it is important to not let those moments become a road rage incidents.

“Egos and personalities get in there, and then we have a problem,” Didion said. “Just change lanes, let them pass, and it’s over with – usually. When there is an aggressive driver, there is usually a reason for it – they may be late. Don’t become confrontational with them, and they aren’t a problem anymore.”

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a majority of people (96 percent) have not found that the road rage incidents have affected their confidence to drive. However, women and motorists aged 55-64 were the groups most likely to say that the last incident had affected their confidence. It must be stressed that the chances of any driver becoming the victim of a violent road rage attack are very small. The risks of driving alone can be exaggerated – be sensible about your safety but don’t be afraid to drive on your own. However, if you feel threatened by another motorist, the following gives advice on how to defuse the situation or protect yourself:

  • If you’re being hassled by another driver, try not to react. Avoid making eye contact, as this is often seen as confrontational. Don’t be tempted to accelerate, brake, or swerve suddenly; again, this may be seen as confrontational and increases your chances of losing control of your vehicle.
  • If a driver continues to hassle you or you think you are being followed, drive on to the nearest police station or busy place to get help.
  • In town, lock the car doors and keep the windows and sunroof only partly open.
  • When stopped in traffic, leave enough space to pull out from behind the car you are following.
  • If someone tries to get into your car, attract attention by sounding your horn or a personal alarm.
  • Do not be tempted to start a fight and do not be tempted to carry any sort of weapon. It may only provoke a potential assailant and could end up in his or her hands.