Aggressive driving in Bellingham greatly increases risk of severe car crashes

Bellingham has been growing by leaps and bounds, which adds more cars to Whatcom County roads. More cars on the roads means more traffic, and that can mean more headaches. I'm sure every driver has gotten angry at other drivers, but aggressive driving is highly dangerous. Just take a look at this driver in the Seattle area who became an Internet sensation when he chose to use his car as a battering ram last summer. In Washington, it is illegal under the Reckless Driving law:

RCW 46.61.500

Reckless driving—Penalty.

(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.

What constitutes aggressive driving?

Although many types of carelessness and negligence can constitute aggressive driving, some of the more common types of aggressive and dangerous driving on Washington roadways include the following:

  • Changing lanes too quickly or weaving in and out of traffic
  • Following too closely (i.e. tailgating)
  • Failing to use a turn signal when executing a turn
  • Exceeding posted speed limits
  • Engaging in distracted driving (e.g., texting while driving or making cell phone calls without using a hands-free option)
  • Drunk or impaired driving

The law comes down extra hard on those who are found to be drunk or drugged while driving recklessly, including mandated interlock devices installed in the offender's vehicle. Studies show those interlock devices can make a big difference in keeping drunk drivers off the road, and hopefully in places where they can learn to deal with their anger more productively.

As an aside and in the spirit of Valentine's Day, it is also illegal to embrace another while driving if that embrace impedes the safe operation of the vehicle. Such behavior falls under the Reckless Driving statute.

Types of Aggressive Driving

In today’s increasingly mobile society, aggressive driving, unfortunately, has become commonplace. Aggressive driving can take many forms. Some of the most common examples of aggressive and careless driving on roadways and highways today include the following:

  • Tailgating
  • Quick or careless lane changes
  • Failing to use a turn signal for lane changes
  • Excessive speeding, which, by the way, doesn't get you there any faster
  • Excessively or unnecessarily honking a horn or flashing lights
  • Making rude comments, threats, or obscene gestures to other drivers
  • Displaying a weapon to threaten another driver
  • Following a driver off the highway

When motor vehicle drivers engage in any of these activities while on the roadway, they create the perfect storm for accidents with other drivers. This type of behavior is viewed as negligent and, in some cases, criminal.

If you're stuck in traffic and feel your temperature rise, practice these mindfulness techniques to take the edge off. They require no technological device to do, and can deliver a sweeter package to your Valentine than a driving violation - a calmer, more compassionate loved one.

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