Impatient, angry drivers make roads more deadly
Monroe Township police recently got an infusion of grant money that will help the department monitor aggressive driving on eight miles of the Black Horse Pike, according to reporting in The Sun.
With funds renewed every year since 2020, Monroe officers have been able to patrol the area in four-hour shifts; this year, with $3,000 more than last year’s allotment, they can increase patrols to the hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Previous results have been positive, according to Lt. Mark Burton, the police department’s Traffic Safety Unit Supervisor, who noted that when the force first applied for the grant three years ago, it was after 450 accidents and 13 fatalities on the pike.
But it will take more than one town and one police department to put a dent in the number of aggressive drivers on the nation’s roads, whose numbers have increased since COVID was at its worst. While it was thought empty roads would be safer roads during the pandemic, the result has been just the opposite.
Per capita vehicle deaths rose 17.5% from the summer of 2019 to last summer, according to The New York Times, the largest two-year hike since just after World War II. Drivers beset by the isolation and economic impact of COVID have only gotten more surly behind the wheel.
If you count incidents of road rage precipitated by aggressive drivers, the numbers are even scarier. A June 2021 report highlighted by the website healthline.com showed the average number of people shot, killed or wounded in road rage incidents in the U.S. had almost doubled, from a monthly toll of 22 deaths and injuries between June 2016 and May 2020 to 42 deaths and injuries between June 2020 and May 2021.
And while William Van Tassel, manager of the American Automobile Association (AAA) driver training programs, believes it may be too soon to know for sure if COVID has been responsible for some road rage, it is still a concern.
“Generally, COVID-19 has caused frustration among just about everyone, including people who have been driving much less than before the pandemic,” he said. “People could easily bring their frustrations with them into the vehicle, which could negatively affect their driving behaviors.”
So how do we stem aggressive driving? It can start with this: Don’t get in the car when you’re in a hurry. According to defensivedriver.org, you should also avoid tailgating or cutting off other vehicles and let aggressive drivers go around you. Slowing down doesn’t hurt either. And always avoid a rude gesture: Giving the finger, as the phrase goes, can get you killed.
New Jersey residents who spot aggressive driving can use the Dangerous Driver System by
dialing #77 – and not 911, according to the state attorney general’s office. The latter should be used only to report life-threatening and other emergencies.
Dial #77 when you see aggressive or erratic driving that poses a risk to other motorists on
the road. And if you’re mad, stay home