WASHINGTON - Police in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are cracking down on aggressive drivers in Maryland as part of a region-wide safety initiative, called "Smooth Operator."
Aggressive driving is not just a matter of bad driving, but dangerous driving, according to police.
"Your needs don't outweigh the safety on the roadway," says Captain Tom Didone with Montgomery County Police. "And we're out during 'Smooth Operator' to keep things safe."
Three people die in aggressive driving accidents each day, police estimate. That is 1,000 deaths each year. It's a number police say is far too high, compared to the national averages.
"This is about people unnecessarily putting people at risk," Didone says.
"When I go out to the fatal crash scenes, I look to see how this crash occurred. The bad driving in this situation didn't just happen. It wasn't a one time occurrance," he says.
Aggressive driving is so common, many drivers do not realize they are driving in an unsafe way, Didone says. If drivers blow through stop signs, tailgate or speed, they are considered by police to be driving aggressively.
Avoid being an aggressive driver:
- Allow more travel time to get to your destination. It reduces stress dramatically.
- Come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs. Never run yellow lights.
- Let other drivers merge with you.
- Obey posted speed limits.
- Don't follow other drivers too closely.
- Resist temptation to teach someone "a lesson."
- Concentrate on driving - not on the stereo, cell phone, passengers or other distractions.
- Remember that you can't control traffic - but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.
Traffic only creates more road rage and aggression in drivers, which then puts responsibility on others on the road to drive defensively.
Avoiding aggressive drivers:
- Get out of their way and steer clear of them on the road.
- Stay relaxed. Remember that reaching your destination safely and calmly is your goal.
- Don't challenge them. Avoid eye contact. Ignore rude gestures and refuse to return them.
- Give them the benefit of the doubt. Not all aggressive driving behavior is intentional.
- Don't block the passing lane, especially if you are driving slower than most of the traffic. Move over to the right lane.
- Dial #77 on a cell phone to report aggressive drivers or call your local police when you can.
"Smooth Operator" was started more than 10 years ago when 18 law enforcement agencies coordinated their efforts to get tough on aggressive drivers. It resulted in 62,000 citations that first year.
Now the initiative is launched periodically in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and D.C. to raise awareness and change driver behavior.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)