Everyone on the road has had plenty of experience with rude, aggressive drivers. These are the drivers that cut you off, engage in tailgating, and lay on the horn to get you to move out of the way or go faster, veer too close to your vehicle and other assorted bad behaviors.

What about you? Are you a rude and/or aggressive driver? According to a new study from Safeco Insurance, more than a third of drivers surveyed admitted to being aggressive behind the wheel. Four out of five drivers reported being negatively impacted by the actions of aggressive drivers.

Other survey findings:

  • 82 percent said they had negative feelings because of the way other people drive
  • More than one third (37 percent) said they’d seen a driver cut a funeral lane
  • More than half (54 percent) said they saw able-bodied drivers snatch handicapped spots
  • 42 percent reported seeing drivers cut off a school bus
  • Boston drivers are the worst self-reported aggressive drivers (46 percent), followed by New York and Los Angeles (38 percent each)
  • Denver drivers are the lowest (26 percent) in self-reported aggressive driving
  • Minneapolis and Seattle drivers overall report less frequent negative behaviors for themselves and others

Taken together, the survey findings show there’s a lot of bad behavior on America’s streets, roads and highways.

The good news is that you can take steps to improve your behavior behind the wheel. It all starts with being courteous, by putting yourself in the shoes of others, by acting in a way toward others (other drivers on the road) that you’d like them to behave toward you.

Besides Safeco Insurance, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, AAA National, AT&T and other organizations and companies are also active in efforts to encourage safe and courteous driving.

Change Your Driving Ways With These Tips

Here are some other tips to changing your driving ways and being a little more courteous and respectful of others on the road:

  • Recognize your aggressive driving tendencies, the first step toward changing them. Quite simply, maybe you don’t realize that the way you’re driving is not exactly model behavior. You could ask a family member or close friend to rate your driving, if you can take the criticism. If not, do a checklist. Do you often cut others off? That’s a sign of an aggressive driver. Do you frequently change lanes, weaving in and out of traffic to gain a few car lengths? This is not only aggressive, it’s considered reckless driving. What about laying on the horn to get the driver ahead to move out of your way? If you’re guilty of this, it’s just another indicator of an aggressive driving manner. Speeding on a regular basis means you’re either really fond of pressing down on the gas pedal or you may be consistently late for where you’re going, or you’re just an aggressive driver. Ditto if you come right up on the car in front of you, tailgating as a threatening or aggressive measure.
  • Adopt the leave early practice. A likely huge contributor to driver’s aggressive behavior is that they’re consistently late. The solution for this problem is to leave five to 15 minutes earlier. This way, you’ll be less likely to be frustrated by slow traffic or become enraged at a tie-up or roadway closure or other snag in your route of travel. Sure, it may mean you have to adjust your morning and evening routine, but the payoff in peace of mind and in your driving behavior will be well worth the effort.
  • Accept the inevitable. You may not like traffic or traveling by car on busy highways, but unless teleporting becomes possible, you’ll need to learn to accept reality. Slow and fast drivers, impossible or smooth traffic flow are a normal part of the everyday driving community. There’s no sense getting worked up over it. By leaving early (suggestion two), you’ll start to become more tolerant of others’ driving behavior.
  • Think of other drivers as friends, and act accordingly. You wouldn’t be rude or aggressive toward your friend, would you? Try driving as if others on the road are people you like. To this end, be a courteous driver. Allow someone to move into your lane if they’re trying to – and it’s safe to do so. Give up a parking spot so that someone else – who may really need it – can have it. There are other spots and you could probably use the exercise from walking a few steps more to your destination after you park. The best part about being courteous is that it encourages other drivers to adopt similar behavior.
  • Remember that everyone has a bad day now and then. You’re not the only one who has problems. Everyone does. When you’re driving is not the time to take your frustrations out. Consider that other aggressive drivers you see on the road may not even realize what they’re doing, as they’re so caught up in what’s bothering them that they aren’t aware they just cut you off or suddenly came up on your back bumper. You’ve done the same thing yourself. But this is behavior you can change, starting now.

To prompt drivers to consider becoming more courteous on the road, Safeco is launching “Drive It Forward Fridays,” just prior to the start of the busy summer travel season. To participate, go to http://www.safeco.com/diff or use the hashtag #DIFF to pledge to be a more courteous driver.

The really good news is that 72 percent of drivers surveyed said they would make at least one change in their own driving behavior to make driving more pleasant.

What about you? Are you up for the challenge?

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