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Don't let bad driving lead to road rage

OK drivers, take a little time to answer these questions and be truthful. Have you ever:

• Tailgated to punish or coerce another driver?

• Sped up to proceed through a yellow light?

• Changed lanes frequently?

• Blocked an intersection?

• Failed to round out your turn?

• Passed when it is not necessary?

• Passed illegally on the right or on the shoulder?

• Made an improper or erratic lane changes?

• Driven 5-15 mph over the posted speed limit?

• Ran a red light?

• Not signaled when you were required to?

• Broke suddenly to retaliate against a tailgater?

• Blocked a passing lane and refused to move over?

• Allowed yourself to be distracted?

• Sped up or tailgated to prevent a vehicle from merging into your lane or not yielded?

• Taken the right-of-way instead of yielded the right-of-way?

• Made a threatening or insulting gesture while driving?

• Cut someone off?

You may not want to face up to it, but if you said yes to any of these questions, you could be guilty of road rage or at the very least, aggressive driving.

Any action that is a disregard for safety while driving can be construed as aggressive driving whether it is intentional or not, noted The Hartford insurance company in a news release issued last week.

To truly be a safe driver, drivers must adopt a defensive driving attitude — taking every reasonable precaution to prevent traffic mishaps, over and above what the law requires, the company advises.

Aggressive drivers who continually try to squeeze into every available opening eventually may be involved in a preventable collision. The insurance company recommends that to become a defensive driver, "yield" rather than "take" the right-of-way.

Adjust driving behavior to the unexpected actions of other drivers and pedestrians; the unpredictable and continuously changing factors of light, weather, road and traffic conditions; and to reflect a positive attitude.

Here are more tips from the Automobile Association of American to prevent aggressive driving:

Follow the rules of the road:

Maintain adequate following distance.

Use turn signals.

Allow others to merge.

Use your high beams responsibly.

Tap your horn if you must (but no long blasts with accompanying hand gestures).

Be considerate in parking lots. Park in one spot, not across multiple spaces. Be careful not to hit cars next to you with your door.

How to deal with confrontation:

Avoid eye contact with angry drivers.

Don't respond to aggression with aggression.

If you feel you are at risk, drive to a public place such as a police station, hospital or fire station.

When you park, allow room so you can pull out safely if someone approaches you aggressively.

Use your horn to attract attention. But remain in your locked vehicle.

If you are confronted, stay as calm and courteous as possible.

If you feel threatened, call 911.

There are many drivers that associate aggressive driving with road rage, when in fact they are two different behaviors. Road rage is a criminal offense and is often the exacerbation of aggressive driving that can escalate into an assault with a vehicle or other dangerous weapon.

Don't let it get that far. Always keep a safe driving attitude.

After an incident, allow yourself to calm down. Take several deep breaths. Change the radio station to calmer music.

Reduce any stress and allow plenty of time to get where you are going.

-- Alexandria Echo Press