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Be cool, steer clear of trouble

by BILL BULEY
Staff Writer | December 4, 2020 1:00 AM

COEUR d'ALENE — It’s the holidays, a season of love, joy, peace — and angry drivers.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said Thursday that the perception that men tend to speed, tailgate, merge dangerously, and make rude gestures or honk at other drivers more than women is not just a perception. It’s reality, according to its research, and it's also dumb.

“Speeding, red-light running, and cutting other drivers off can kill you, your passengers, and others sharing the road,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety advocacy. “Driving aggressively isn’t worth the risk. When you get behind the wheel, be patient, be kind, and obey traffic laws so everyone gets home safely.”

According to its research, 52% of males drove 15 mph over the speed limit on a freeway, versus 44% of females. It found that 38% of male drivers followed vehicles too closely, compared to 29% of females.

The survey also found that men made rude gestures and honked at other drivers 35% of the time, compared to 28% of women, and 32% of males drove aggressively by switching lanes quickly and/or very close behind another car.

According to the Idaho Transportation Department’s 2019 crash report, aggressive driving was a contributing factor in half of all crashes on Gem State roads and resulted in 66 deaths.

Lt. Ryan Higgins with the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that AAA's survey "is pretty consistent to what I have seen throughout my years."

While younger males are the most likely to display acts of aggression while driving, females aren’t far behind, based on AAA survey responses.

“We’ve learned that many Americans have a tendency to speed, run red lights, make angry gestures, tailgate, and weave in and out of traffic in the course of their regular driving activities," said AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. "But people are under extra pressure right now, and if bad habits get worse, it will certainly spell trouble for everyone on the road."

The potential is there for close and angry encounters.

“As we head into the dark, cold days of winter, road conditions will be pretty challenging, even for engaged drivers,” Conde said. “But if you’re upset or frustrated, that could lead to situational blindness and the possibility of a devastating crash."

Conde said AAA recommends drivers do what isn’t always easy to do: Forgive, forget and most important, don’t respond.

“It’s never a good idea to make an unfriendly gesture, but if you must, you should keep your hands out of sight while you’re doing it,” Conde said.

It’s the holidays, so be like Frosty, and be cool.

“Nobody wants to spend the holidays with their car in a repair shop,” Conde said.