The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 15, 2013

Ask a Trooper: The Dangers of illegal, unsafe speeding and aggressive driving

By Jacalyn Sticha
Minnesota State Patrol

 Speeding is not an innocent crime. It puts every motorist on the road at risk. The potential for losing control grows as your speed increases, as well as increasing stopping distance and reducing reaction time needed for crash avoidance. I have written extensively about speed being force, the greater the speed the greater the force - damaging our tissues.

 Statewide Speed Week Patrols will be conducted in March, July and through September 2013. If you do have a heavy foot, your wallet will likely be lightened up. A speed violation is typically at least $120 and motorists stopped at 20 mph over the speed limit face double the fine. You will lose your license if traveling 100 mph plus.

Chronic speeders are often the aggressive driver. This driver often displays specific behaviors: ignoring or fudging traffic signals/signs, tailgating aggressively, improperly or abruptly changing lanes and passing on the right. They think the roadway is solely theirs and when the rest of us get in their way, the heat is on.

 Dealing with an aggressive driver can be tough and may require some finesse: get out of their way, play dumb and do not engage or acknowledge them directly, stay calm and avoid eye contact, most importantly do not fight fire with fire. If they get no response, they are more likely to move on.   

 Exiting or turning off the roadway to be rid of this cranky driver will likely relieve you of the danger. However, do not get off the roadway in remote areas just in case you are followed and never stop or get out of your car to engage this person.  

 Wait until you can safely call 911 and be prepared with a vehicle and driver description and the license plate number.  Others may have called in on the same driver.

 Pulling over speeding drivers does address the aggressive drivers. Speeding impacts us all, increasing crashes and their severity, also, damaging the driving experience. Slow down, move back, pay attention, and buckle up ­ a recipe we all have and need to follow!

   Motorists need to pay special attention to their driving during morning and afternoon school bus routes. School bus drivers are required to activate yellow flashers at least 100 feet ahead of a stop when driving routes below 35 mph, and at least 300 feet on routes over 35 mph.  The yellow lights come on to warn drivers and to have them prepare to stop for the flashing red lights and school bus stop arm;  this is when the children exit and may cross a roadway.

 Stop always means a complete cessation of movement and you must stop and remained stopped until the stop arm is retracted.  You cannot come within 20 feet of the bus, nor creep up to or into that zone.

  Motorists should be especially cautious as children are exiting the bus and crossing the street ­ this is the most dangerous time for children.