Defensive driving

Most of us have “lost it” to some degree while behind the wheel, and often it is for good reason. But in the past few years, the reactions of otherwise mild-mannered drivers to real or imagined slights have moved from a mouthed obscenity and crude hand gestures to fistfights and even gunfire.

Several years ago, I was driving on Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue when a cab approaching me began to execute the typical four-lane Toronto U-turn. Feeling magnanimous (it was near Christmas), I honked my horn to indicate that I would wait while he performed his U-turn. Unfortunately, he misinterpreted my honk, and proceeded to yell, scream and wave at me, while cutting in front of my car to block my progress. Wounded, I responded in kind, only to be chased through the busy neighbourhood by a driver clearly suffering from “road rage”. Since that day, I have only honked when it is absolutely necessary.

“People make mistakes when driving, but other drivers around them must realize that these mistakes are usually not deliberate,” says Inspector Barry Turnbull, officer in charge of Field Support Services fro Peel region outside Toronto. “Drivers must be more understanding and not takthe error committed by the other driver so personally.”

Inspector Turnbull encourages drivers to be more aware of their surroundings and drive defensively. Many drivers are on cellular phones or listening to loud music and not concentrating 100% on their driving and what others are doing around them. Even though this may make you crazy, giving them the finger won’t do anything to improve their driving abilities.

The Inspector notes that one of the biggest problems on our roadways is fighting for turf. As he notes, you wouldn’t fight for a space in a grocery line, so why fight for one in traffic? Back off, be courteous, smile, and wave an individual in from a private driveway or a merging traffic lane. Minor gestures like this can defuse a frustrating situation.

Some other good tips to follow to avoid a confrontation with an aggressive driver are:

  • Do not tailgate.
  • Do not make obscene gestures or remarks to other drivers.
  • Avoid the horn when possible.
  • Do not drive in the passing lane unless necessary.
  • Most important of all, do not get into a confrontation with another driver. If their driving is aggressive and you fear for your safety or someone else’s, call the police immediately and report the licence plate number, location, and direction of travel.