Dealing with aggressive tailgaters!

Dealing with aggressive tailgaters - Angry driverAnother great question was sent in to us this week – this time about dealing with aggressive drivers.  Find more information about what to do and how to deal with aggressive tailgaters and angry drivers during a driving lesson.

“Hi Ged & Claire, I love reading all of your articles and love the long detailed answers you give.  Any advice on dealing with other crazy people on the road?

I had a few moments recently when I thought I was going to get my head kicked in! For doing the speed limit!  Doing 30 mph in a 30 zone, this person comes flying up behind, driving an inch from my bumper.  We are doing the speed limit, so what can I do? I asked my learner to pull up on the left, but then the other driver pulls up alongside us and gives a mouthful about nothing! People turn into ‘gangsters’ when they get behind the wheel.

I had another incident the other day.  My learner was giving way to oncoming traffic at a meeting point in the road where a sign indicates oncoming traffic has priority. Then this woman comes up behind staring into my mirror screaming the words “F***ING GO THEN!” several times! I pointed to the sign, but then she overtakes, bouncing up the island and nearly smashing into the car that we were giving way to!

And they say it’s young drivers that causes crashes.  No.  It’s other peoples stinking attitude. The ‘always in a hurry’ kind of attitude.

I know the best thing to do is just try to ignore it, but it really gets my adrenaline going.  It’s that kind of feeling when somebody starts on you – fight or flight.

I’m sure I’m not the only ADI getting stick for not breaking the law?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance”

When people find out you’re a driving instructor, do you often hear them say, “Wow, you must have lots of patience”? It’s true.  We do.  And we probably all have a lot of patience when teaching our learners – after all, they’re not getting things wrong on purpose!

Our patience really gets tested, however, when dealing with impatience and aggression from other road users, and I totally understand your frustration. I think most driving instructors have the same frustrations too. Here are some ideas on how to minimise and deal with aggressive actions from others on the road.

Tips for Dealing with Aggressive Tailgaters and Angry Drivers!

Fit some in-car cameras

Photo courtesy of Mark Oliver's Driving School

Photo courtesy of Mark Oliver’s Driving School

An increasing number of driving instructors are choosing to install forward- and rear-facing cameras in their training vehicle.  These serve their purpose if you’re ever involved in a crash, as video footage can be invaluable for proving who was at fault. However, having a sign in the rear of your car stating that you have CCTV fitted can act as a great deterrent to aggressive tailgaters and angry drivers. A local instructor has the above “You’re on CCTV” sign on the rear of his car and we think it’s a great way of letting others know that their actions are being caught on camera.  He says he has definitely noticed a reduction in the number of drivers being aggressive or displaying impatience and that fewer drivers follow too closely.  In-car cameras range from inexpensive £15 models to all-singing-and-dancing High Definition, GPS & WiFi models costing around £350 – £400.

Not interested in getting an in-car camera?  Well, even if you don’t have CCTV, a sticker stating that you do may be just as effective! 🙂

Add a sign or message to the rear of your car

A well thought-out sign or written message on the back of your car can help encourage good behaviour. The level of effectiveness may depend on the language used, and of course the temperament of the driver behind!  More tips about prevention and dealing with aggressive tailgaters.

  • If I stop, can you? Some following drivers may see this as more of a challenge to their ability, “Of course I can!”
  • Keep your distance – This should encourage people to keep back, but with it being phrased as an order, some drivers may rebel against you telling them how to drive.
  • You were a learner once – Most drivers can empathise with this, but this message alone may be a little too subliminal. “Yes I was” they may think while they drive 10cm from your bumper!
  • DANGER! Sudden braking! – Whilst it might keep people off your bumper, this message may not be not as encouraging for potential pupils or your current learners who see it every time they come out to the car for their lesson.
  • Please be patient – This is better for encouraging drivers behind to be courteous and patient if it is read as a question rather than an order.  However, some people reading it might just think, “No, I won’t be b***dy patient!” 😉
  • Thanks for being patient 🙂 This is our personal favourite.  We all like thanks and there is a presupposition here that the following driver has been patient, meaning that they are more likely to be.  A smiley face confirms the tone in which it is meant.
  • Muay-Thai-loveBlack Dragon Kick Boxing – I always wonder if drivers who advertise their local martial art club experience less aggression on the roads?! Some drivers become intimidating once they get behind the wheel, I wonder if they would do the same if they realise the driver in front could be a black belt! I always remember one of my instructors telling me of one of his experiences… During a lesson, he asked the pupil to pull over to have a polite word with the driver behind who was being aggressively impatient and quite verbal in the safety of his own car. The other driver couldn’t say “sorry” enough when he saw the massive body builder physique of the instructor that climbed out of the little Vauxhall Corsa!

Ditch the roof sign and try just L-plates

l plateFor some reason, many instructors report that using a roof sign can attract a greater number of other drivers ‘making poor decisions’ than when just displaying L plates alone.  We’re not entirely sure if this is actually true or just a false perception. If it is true, it may be that others may:

a)      Perceive that a learner driver will almost certainly be behind the wheel of the driving school car.  In the case of a car with L-plates on, it could be being driven by a full licence holder who normally accompanies their son or daughter for private practice;

b)      Consider that a driving school car is under more control due to a driving instructor being present.  Parents with their son or daughter at the wheel have less ability to stop or control the car is something goes wrong.  Therefore the risky or aggressive driver takes more chances around the driving school car;

c)       Have been conditioned by parents, friends and peers to HATE learner drivers – the bright decals and roof sign are like a red rag to a bull for some people, and they will do ANYTHING to get past ‘that damn learner’.

Whatever the reason, we’d be interested to hear your views on this.  Have you tried removing your roof sign and just using L-plates instead?  Did it make any noticeable difference to the way other drivers behaved around you?  Let us know your thoughts and experiences!

Route planning

If your learners feel they are being pushed into situations that they find difficult to deal with (or are not yet confident with), they are more likely to be hesitant and slow on the road.  This will inevitably lead to following drivers trying their hardest to get past. The more your learner gets overtaken, or experiences aggression from other road users, the more it can affect their confidence and ability.  This is a vicious circle. I had a few rear-end shunts in my first few years as an instructor and looking back, I know I was too tough pushing learners into situations they weren’t ready for. It’s an easy trap to fall into!

A polite gesture

A clear (and polite!) gesture to the driver behind may encourage a bit more patience. A raise of the hand to apologise or thank a driver after making a mistake (e.g. stalling) will often be appreciated and can very quickly eradicate any frustration or aggression on the part of the other driver(s). Be warned though, if the following driver is a bit further away, the exact meaning of the gesture may be misinterpreted!

Pull over

When driving myself, I will often pull over if I think a driver behind is becoming excessively agitated by my adherence to the speed limit. As professional drivers and instructors, we have to accept that other drivers don’t always like keeping to the speed limit.  It’s not our job to police, and by stopping the following driver from overtaking, we could actually encourage a much more dangerous situation to develop.

So, if someone is following dangerously close behind on a driving lesson, there’s always the option to pull over to allow let them pass. If the learner comes to accept this as a perfectly normal thing to do under certain circumstances, they will feel more in control and have a good coping strategy.  Better that than to have them constantly looking in the rear view mirror and worrying about the thoughts and feelings of the driver behind.

Reason it out

Putting yourself or your learner ‘in the shoes’ of the driver behind may help you and your learner empathise with the other driver’s thoughts and feelings. Could it be that the driver behind is late for work and has already been threatened with the sack if they turn up late one more time? Maybe he’s just got a call to say that his wife has been rushed into hospital? Maybe her child has had a nasty accident at school? Maybe they’re just desperate for the loo? The fact is, we’re not mind-readers, so we don’t know what is going on in the world of the other driver.

One day it may be us in a desperate rush to get somewhere and we might just drive a bit too close or take a risk we wouldn’t normally take. We’re not perfect, and neither is everyone else.  Recognise and accept it.

Make a choice

You can’t necessarily control aggressive tailgaters and the other driver’s behaviour, but you can control your own. If you choose to retaliate and show anger or aggression in return, you’ll suffer from palpitations and increased blood pressure.  You’ll be demonstrating exactly the type of behaviour that upset you in the first place.  And worse still, frowning encourages wrinkles! 😉

choiceOr, you can choose to be calm, not rise to it, remain neutral and enjoy the rest of your day… and suffer no extra wrinkles! The choice is yours.

Remember, if you have a pupil driving, you are a role model.  You have an invaluable opportunity to lead by example.  By remonstrating with other drivers and calling them ‘idiots’, ‘crap drivers’ (or worse), you are teaching them how to behave negatively behind the wheel.  That’s certainly not going to do them any favours once they pass their driving test and are driving independently.

down arrowAngry Drivers and Aggressive Tailgaters – So how do you cope when other drivers follow too closely, display aggression or do daft things? How do you encourage your pupil to deal with it? What are you going to try to minimise aggression from other drivers?  Please share your experiences and strategies in the comments box below so we can all learn from each other.  We LOVE hearing from you!
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