Aggressive driving is a serious problem in North Carolina
We’ve all seen them on the road – aggressive drivers. Tailgating. Weaving in between traffic. Running a red light. Racing on the streets like there’s no one else on the road. What these drivers don’t realize – or don’t care about – is that their actions can dramatically increase the risk of a car accident that results in serous injuries or fatalities. And according to recent findings, it is a serious problem in North Carolina.
A survey conducted by the travel app GasBuddy found North Carolina has some of the most aggressive drivers in the country. The results were determined using data from the app’s Trips feature, which gives drivers an assessment of their driving habits with the goal of improving fuel efficiency. The feature maps out when and where a poor driving habit occurred.
GasBuddy examined data from tens of millions of trips taken in the United States from December 2017 to March 2018. It noted the frequency of aggressive events such as speeding, hard braking and accelerating.
According to the survey, North Carolina came in fifth on the list of states with the most aggressive drivers, with an aggressive driving event occurring every 8.6 minutes. California topped the list, followed by Connecticut, Georgia and Texas.
The survey also noted that hard braking was the most frequent aggressive driving event, accounting for 67% of all events analyzed. This was followed by speeding at 25% and acceleration at 8%.
While these driving behaviors were monitored because they decrease fuel efficiency, they are also behaviors that increase the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash that can cause serious injuries and fatalities.
Hard braking is when a driver applies extra pressure to the brake pedal to come to as quick a stop as possible. It can be necessary when a car suddenly pulls in front. But it can also be a warning sign that a driver is following another car too closely. When the car in front needs to stop suddenly, the car following may not have enough space or time to come to a complete stop before crashing into the other vehicle.
Another common form of aggressive driving is speeding – driving above posted limits or faster than is safe because of construction or bad weather. A speeding driver can easily lose control of the car when going through a curve in the road, trying to avoid an object ahead or driving on slippery pavement.
Fast acceleration is another problem. Acceleration is when a driver applies extra pressure on the accelerator to speed up as quickly as possible. For example, speeding up when the light turns yellow, or speeding to avoid letting another car make a turn. This behavior can also be dangerous and leave a driver unable to react in time to avoid a crash.
But aggressive driving can include many other behaviors.
What is aggressive driving?
The definition of aggressive driving used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) is when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”
A 2009 study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) used data from the NHTSA’s Fatal Accident Report System (FARS) to identify certain behaviors associated with aggressive driving:
- Following improperly
- Improper or erratic lane changing
- Illegal driving on road shoulder, in ditch, or on sidewalk or median
- Passing where prohibited
- Operating the vehicle in an erratic, reckless, careless, or negligent manner or suddenly changing speeds
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to obey traffic signs, traffic control devices, or traffic officers
- Failure to observe safety zone traffic laws
- Failure to observe warnings or instructions on vehicle displaying them
- Failure to signal
- Driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit
- Making an improper turn
In North Carolina, 1,055 people were charged with aggressive driving in 2017. The state defines aggressive driving as speeding while committing at least two other offenses: running a red light, running a stop sign, passing illegally, failing to yield and following too closely.
More than half of those charges occurred in 8 counties:
- Mecklenburg 280
- Wake 67
- Guilford 54
- Forsyth 40
- Gaston 29
- Cumberland 27
- New Hanover 27
- Robeson 25
The definitions of “aggressive driving” all include the same general driving behaviors. And all can lead to the same result – a crash that leaves people hurt or dead.
Impact of aggressive driving
According to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, there were 12,445 crashes in 2016 in which the driver operated a vehicle in an “erratic, reckless, careless, negligent or aggressive manner.” These accidents resulted in 5,577 injuries and 289 fatalities.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. A crash caused by aggressive driving can leave drivers and passengers with serious injuries. These can include broken bones, cuts and bruises and much more severe examples such as traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injuries. Victims require medical treatment that may include surgery, hospitalization, physical therapy, medication, home health equipment and multiple follow-up doctor visits.
When people are hurt in a car crash, their injuries can leave them temporarily disabled and perhaps unable to work. This result is a loss of income just as their medical expenses increase considerably. Others injuries can leave some victims permanently disabled and unable to work at all ever again.
In some cases, lives are lost due to a crash caused by aggressive driving. Families are left grieving the loss of a loved one. Some struggle to get by if their loved one was a provider.
Hold drivers accountable
Aggressive driving costs taxpayers, who pay the salaries of police officers and certain emergency workers who respond to accidents. It costs motor vehicle owners, who pay premiums to insurance companies that ultimately cover the damages. It costs employers too, who lose productive employees after they are hurt in a crash. Most importantly, it costs victims and their families.
In 2016, a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 80% of drivers had expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous year. It is clear that aggressive driving is a problem, and that we are all paying the price for their actions.
Aggressive driving is negligent driving. And aggressive drivers need to be held accountable for their actions. But drivers often don’t consider themselves to be aggressive, and don’t accept responsibility after a crash. Insurance companies routinely try to pay as little as possible. And proving aggressive driving can be challenging.
Recovering financial compensation can take months or even years. In the meantime, many victims struggle to pay their bills. A lawyer with resources and experience can investigate the crash and build a strong case that establishes aggressive driving led to injury or death. The Law Offices of Richard Flexner in Wilmington, North Carolina has been helping people injured by aggressive drivers for decades.