Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Keep things in the right lane – and perspective – to avoid a road rage incident

YOUR HEALTH | By Ashley Stewart
Herald writer
Most motorists have been there.
The car in front of you is going too slow or the driver behind you is tailgating and flashing his lights.
Motorists are confronted by different driving styles, but their reaction should be the same, Washington State troopers say: Don’t engage with others on the road.
The Washington State Patrol’s Aggressive Driving Apprehension Team targets aggressive drivers using unmarked cars, such as SUVs, Dodge Chargers and Chevrolet Impalas, with mobile video cameras.
ADAT troopers made 9,061 aggressive driving stops this year in Snohomish, Skagit, Island and Whatcom counties.
The team looks for drivers who are going significantly over the speed limit while tailgating, changing lanes and trying to intimidate other drivers.
State Patrol Sgt. Kirk Rudeen supervises ADAT troopers out of the patrol’s Marysville office.
He said the best way to avoid an aggressive driving incident is to let it go.
“You’re not going to accomplish anything by engaging with another driver,” he said. “Ignore it.”
The most recent incident involving a weapon on the road happened between Marysville and Everett when two drivers were racing in the far left and far right lanes of I-5. One driver pulled out a gun and fired at the other, and the bullet lodged into an uninvolved car caught in the middle. No one was hurt, but Rudeen warns drivers to get out of the way when confronted with an aggressive driver.
“You don’t know if they have a weapon or what kind of emotional state they are in,” he said. “Take a deep breath and back off a little bit.”
The left lane is designated by law and marked by signs as a passing zone, allowing drivers to move around slower traffic. Some drivers misuse the left lane, but Rudeen said there has not been a lot of talk about how to enforce the passing zone.
“It’s not a huge problem,” he said.
While troopers will pull over drivers who camp in the passing lane, Rudeen said stops don’t often result in citations.
“When I’m stopping someone for something like that, I use it as a time to educate – 99.9 percent of the people I’ve stopped had no idea that it was a violation,” he said. “The people may see the sign but don’t really understand what it means.”
Dr. Gerald Oncken, who runs Oncken Counseling Services with his wife in Lynnwood, said that the best way to avoid your own road rage is to practice a little tolerance.
“Put it into perspective. Assess ‘on a scale from one to 10, how critical is this in terms of my life?’” he said. “Ask yourself: ‘How long am I going to let that person rent space in my head for free?’”
Rudeen said that planning ahead is a good defense against road rage.
“Give yourself enough time to get where you’re going,” he said. “If you leave late, you’re going to be late. Don’t try to make up time on the road.”
Kyle Skoglund is the regional coordinator at the National Traffic Safety Institute, a company that provides classes to traffic offenders through the courts.
He said that issues such as stress and time management are among the main reasons people drive aggressively.
“Your behavior greatly impacts how you drive,” he said. “Give yourself time, don’t do everything in a rush, and focus on your attitude.”
Call 911 to report aggressive driving or road rage in-progress.
To report a past event, call the Washington State Patrol District 7 at 360-654-1204 with a description of the vehicle and where it was last seen.
Avoid road rage
• Plan ahead
• Don’t engage
• Move out of the way
• Don’t “camp out” in the passing lane