L.A. Can't Drive » Inside the Mind of an Aggressive (and Sometimes Oblivious) Driver

Inside the Mind of an Aggressive (and Sometimes Oblivious) Driver

I encourage everyone to voices¬†their thoughts, opinions, rants to us here or by emailing them in. We got this honest, insightful, introspective email from a regular reader that is most certainly worth a read, regardless of where you live or where you’re from originally. I’m curious to hear about whether any of you have similar experiences behind the wheel and what they may be. There are bits and pieces that I’m certain we all can relate to, if only at the very least on the receiving end.¬†Without further ado, inside the mind of an aggressive (and sometimes oblivious) driver:

“Let me first start by saying I love your blog and love reading what you have to say about some of the worst offenders. I am a SoCal native and would like to provide you and other readers some insight into the mind of an aggressive (and sometimes oblivious) driver. Of course, I don’t speak for all or most aggressive drivers, but I would like to help you guys understand one type of aggressive driver that at least includes myself if no one else. I will attempt to provide an answer as to what makes me commit some of the bad behavior you observe, why certain stereotypes exist with particular car makes/models, what my limits are, what I’m like outside of my two-ton bubble, etc. I will also provide examples of the most asinine and stupid things I have ever done. Also know that if it ever looks like I am trying to excuse, justify, minimize, or sugarcoat my behavior, I most certainly am not; I am just trying to provide as much background and info as possible.

To start with a little bit of background on myself, I have ADHD, which continues to affect people into adulthood. As I assume most of you know, we have issues with inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. We also often have a low frustration tolerance and difficulty controlling our emotions. People like me are more likely to rack up traffic citations and accidents, both of which apply to me. I am on meds and usually do not take them before I drive because I reserve them for my studies. Go figure. I also tend to buckle and not think clearly under acute pressure, whether it’s perceived or actual pressure (e.g., tailgaters). Remember, no excuses.

What exactly do I do and how aggressive am I? Well, the answer depends on which car I’m driving. When I was driving my Toyota (which I still have) or occasionally my father’s Honda, I was only somewhat aggressive. I would speed most of the time and occasionally tailgate those who were crawling at a snail’s pace or those who dared to cut me off or pull out in front of me and proceed to drive slowly (if I couldn’t immediately get around them). I had my own rules about tailgating: I would never tailgate someone who was going at least the speed limit. I was occasionally oblivious (e.g., forgetting to check blind spots, getting distracted), especially in my early years of driving, which is when most of my accidents and near misses occurred. It was oblivion, not aggression, that caused me to occasionally cut people off. In general, I mostly stayed with the flow of traffic, making occasional lane changes into faster lanes, and occasionally hitting 90 mph on the freeway when it was clear. Occasionally I would screech tires, albeit not intentionally. It doesn’t help that the tires have terrible traction. I wasn’t always “fast” though. Sometimes I would be traveling slower than I thought I was (sometimes in the left lane) and naturally was tailgated and/or passed as a result. I would immediately realize how slow I was going and would speed up.

Then came the BMW (pictured). At first, I was mellow with it as I got used to it. It was much heavier and more powerful than what I was used to. The thing is such a blast to drive that it became my daily driver after a while despite the amount of gas it eats. I gradually became more and more aggressive as I drove faster and faster. Sometimes I would be traveling faster than I thought I was going as I continued to get used to how much faster the BMW is than any car I’ve driven. I would mindlessly tailgate people on the freeway that I thought were going 60, look down at my speedo and we’re doing 80. Yikes. *Thinking I’m just cruising along at 80 passing all these slowpokes la dee da *Looks down at speedometer *Holy fracking **** I’m pushing 95! *Immediately lets off gas. This still happens on occasion even today, but I now check my speedometer constantly and am now used to how it feels at certain speeds. In fact, my last (2nd) speeding ticket for doing 62 in a 50 happened because of this just over a year ago, years after I started driving this thing. There are even those rare cases where I’m going a bit SLOWER than I thought. Today, I am that person that whizzes by you and disappears into the horizon when traffic is clear, well aware of how fast I’m going; I have even hit triple digits on practically empty freeways. I am that person that will not wait until there is a large space before I cut into your lane from behind someone else, especially if you are in the left lane with a massive gap in front of you. I am that person who will get too close to your rear if I want to go faster and cannot go around you. I am that person that you see weaving in and out of lanes in clear traffic and doing 90 in wide open lanes. I am that person that (after checking for red light runners) accelerates like I’m drag racing. I am that person that will gun it down a merging lane to get in front of a slower driver up ahead. I am that person that will merge onto the freeway before the single dashed line appears if I am behind a slow merger. I am that person that will gun it and attempt to pass in small openings if you are going much too slow and I am sick of sitting behind you. I am that person that does not always signal when switching lanes or turning. I am that person that will move into a left turn lane far too early while it’s still a suicide lane because my light is green or turning green soon and I refuse to wait behind your slow self a second longer.

I am certainly not proud of my actions in the least, especially those that would rightfully annoy and anger other drivers. In fact, I often feel bad about my worst offenses after the fact, even after I’ve been sitting at home for a while. Explanations? No problem. Remember, no justification going on here. Why do I drive so fast? It’s not because I’m in a rush, at least not most of the time; ADHDers do have poor time management skills. I’m aware that speeding, especially on surface streets, doesn’t save much time. It certainly does on longer commutes when traffic is clear, however. I’m certainly not trying to prove something either. What is there for me to prove? I’m not a big fan of attention anyway. It may be the thrill or rush of going fast, but I’m not sure if it’s even that as I don’t feel especially euphoric when traveling at high speeds. For me, it’s mostly because I simply feel more at ease when driving fast. Driving slower than my preferred speeds is just miserable to me. I do have my limits like everyone else does; mine are just higher than most. I would never feel safe traveling in excess of 110 on an empty freeway. The most I have ever gone over the limit on a surface street was 30 on a practically empty street with almost no intersections (80 in a 50), and that was because I was being tailgated like all hell, was already going at least 20 over, and was in a rush to move over to the right lane in front of a slightly slower car that we were approaching. Btw, she continued to tailgate me at that speed until I moved over. I also had no clue I was going that fast until the last minute. After receiving my 2nd speeding ticket, I usually now limit myself to 5-9 over on surface streets. Before that, I did 15-20 over at will, except in school zones and residential streets where I tend to do the limit or just barely over. I will crawl if there are any children playing outside and on Halloween night. I will still occasionally do 15-20 over on large, clear streets and if I will be able to see a cop in time to slow down. When I am passed by a much faster driver, I take advantage of that and go as fast as I please until they disappear. While I drive fast, I’m not stupid about it. I know when to tone it down. If it’s raining, I slow down and leave large gaps and am often faced with drivers on my rear who can’t figure out the difference between wet and dry pavement. If I’m going 90+, I will slow down if I approach a line of cars merging onto the freeway and/or tailing each other in the adjacent lane, knowing that at least one of them might jump out in front of me at any time. I would say that my speed makes me an alert and defensive driver. I anticipate that whoever I’m approaching could pull a stupid or oblivious move and always know where other cars are in proximity to mine. I time any (legal) passing maneuvers and assess the risk before attempting. I could never seriously risk myself (or the car) or others.

Why did I just cut you off? Well, if I’m following someone in the adjacent lane and see a wide open space in front of you, I’m going for it. If you’re to the right of me, I probably won’t cut you off and will wait a few more seconds until I see your headlights in my rear view mirror before I move in front of you, but I won’t wait a second longer. If you’re in the left lane, screw you, I’m going for it as soon as I can as long as I don’t nearly take out our bumpers in the process. In my vengeful mind, you don’t deserve any courtesy if you cannot be courteous yourself to those you are holding up behind you. Don’t worry, you won’t be forced to slam on your brakes because I will be pulling away before you can say “Damn you!” Funny enough, passing and cutting them off seems to get them out of the left lane at least 30% of the time, especially if I’m not the only one. Another reason I might cut you off is if I need to make my exit very soon or I need to exit the carpool lane now to make my exit before I’m trapped again. I refuse to miss an exit as usually I will have no idea where to go if I take the next exit and will be forced to set up my navigation system. I will have no qualms about this if you’ve been mindlessly pacing me for an eternity or you purposefully speed up to try to block me in. I do always signal when cutting someone off, as if that makes it any better.

Why am I tailgating you? No need to point out the obvious. I will especially do this to you if you 1. do not understand “slower traffic keep right” 2. crawl on a two lane road and/or refuse to let anyone pass on a long two lane highway where there are plenty of shoulders but no legal or practical opportunities for anyone to pass in the oncoming lanes 3. cut me off or pull out right in front of me and I cannot get around you when you proceed to go much slower than I was previously. It’s not always to try to force you to go faster or move over. In the case of #3 and sort of with #1, it’s to “teach you a lesson”. While I’m aware that no form of tailgating is better than another, I would never ride so close that you can’t even see my headlights. I can’t fathom someone feeling at ease when doing that, especially on the freeway. I also back off if I see children in the car or see that the driver is senile. I am not going to tailgate you if you’re going 75+ and I want to go 90 in clear traffic. I will just pass you in a non-aggressive manner when I get the chance. If I’m tailgating you when there are other vehicles in front of you, it’s not because I’m trying to bully you into going faster when you can’t. That is nonsensical and I don’t understand people who do this intentionally. It’s because I’m somewhat oblivious to the fact that I’m riding your bumper as I’m focused on squeezing in front of the person who insists on pacing my rear quarter panel. I am trying not to blatantly cut this person off. It cut be either that I see a wide open space in front of them or I have an exit/turn to make and don’t feel like slowing way down and holding up the traffic behind me to get behind them. It’s these acts of tailgating that I feel especially bad about after I realize what I’ve been doing. I have been trying to revise this behavior by just hanging back and then closing in at the last moment, but there’s still a lot of work to do. In fact, because I am not proud of my habits no matter who it is directed at, I am trying to quit tailgating altogether. Previously, I figured it worked because the most timid of drivers moved out of my way, although it was rare. Then I slowly realized that tailgating does not work. Of course I have always been aware that tailgating is incredibly annoying as I’ve been on the front end (who hasn’t?), although not a common occurrence for me as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now. Let me tell you though that being closed in on and bumper humped at 100 mph was quite an experience. Now I am working on backing off and getting just close enough to let them know I would like to go faster, but not close enough to piss them off. I figured that will work better than being an annoying pest and will leave me some stopping room. Getting brake checked and nearly rear-ending the person is not a fun way to start or end your day. I have to say though, that I recently read something on an internet forum where the guy said he sees being brake checked as a godsend and uses it as a tactic to create a gap to get around rolling roadblocks. You know the type; the two or more people who drive abreast for an eternity and block traffic behind them. While this “tactic” is very tempting, I probably won’t use it. Too risky. Back on topic, I still have a lot of work to do, especially with the oblivious tailgating that I mentioned above. I often find myself slowly creeping up on the person’s bumper, especially if there is a tailgater behind me. When there is a tailgater behind me, I also weave side to side to make sure they see that there’s someone in front of me so they know it’s not my fault. Don’t ask.

Why do I take off on green lights like a bat out of hell? No, it’s not because I’m trying to prove something or stroke my ego. I’m fully aware that my car isn’t anywhere near the fastest or greatest on the road. I mostly do it because I can. I don’t do this with my Corolla because it is much slower and the tires have practically no traction so they would spin and screech like crazy. There is no thrill involved (for me) in flooring an econobox. The BMW, however, is a blast to really accelerate. I rarely put the pedal to the metal because there is no need to in order to accelerate quickly. It would just be unnecessary and nonsensical to floor it to the next light and I would end up well over the limit. The only time I floor it (or come close) is when 1. I’m on an uphill a freeway on ramp 2. I have pulled out onto a street with a blind curve and see cars approaching that I did not see earlier 3. I pull up next to you at the light when red and am attempting to move in front of you on green. I normally pull #3 on average or larger vehicles for obvious reasons. If I was previously behind you and I switch lanes into the empty one next to you, it’s because I would like to accelerate as fast as I please. I used to only attempt this on half throttle since it worked most of the time. Then I was met with an overall wearing, bald, hillbilly looking guy who was probably in his 30s in an older Avalanche that was holding up a line of traffic on a two lane highway. At the end of the highway, it turns into four lanes and then temporarily into six lanes. When I approached him at a light, I pulled into the empty third lane next to him, which merges shortly after the intersection, because there were other cars in the #1 lane. On green, I pressed the gas pedal maybe halfway, thinking I would just shoot out in front of him. The fact that he was a slowpoke and in a massive vehicle made me think it would be easy. Instead, he FLOORS it and I am forced to hit the brakes and settle behind him, at which point I was able to immediately pass him because our little “race” created an opening. Nowadays, I don’t usually literally floor it, but I come close to avoid this happening again. I actually floor it and put it in first or second gear (automatic btw) when the other driver floors it in a futile effort to block me. [We call this leapfrogging.]

Unlike many aggressive drivers, I have boundaries on what I will or will not do. The speed limit is really the only law that I break big time. I am not that person that zigzags in and out of heavier traffic. What on earth is the point? I am not that person that will pass you on the shoulder. I am almost never that person who uses the exit only lane or the suicide lane as a passing lane. Will explain the one time I did the latter later. I am not that person that will pull a multiple lane sweep in one go. [We call this California Cutting.] I am rarely the person who willfully crosses over double yellow lines in the carpool lane. In fact, I swerved back once while trying to exit the carpool lane when I reunited with the dreaded double yellows. I am not that person that will text while moving. I am not that person that will blatantly cut someone off just to be first at the red light. I am not that person that will ever cut off a semi or bus. I am not that person that will drive onto the shoulder to merge. I am not that person that will speed up to close a gap when you put your signal on. I am not that person that will blatantly run a red light or stop sign. I am not that person that disobeys right of way rules. I am not that person that will gun it to someone’s rear only to slam on the brakes at the last second. I wonder how often those people go through brake pads? I am not that person that brakes to make a right turn without signalling. I am not that person that will block someone from merging and force them onto the shoulder. I am not that person that will tailgate a biker. The list goes on. To your surprise, there is another, not-so-dark side to my driving. I am that person that will leave space and let you in from a side street or parking lot when traffic is stopped at a light or stop sign. I am that person that may apply the brakes when you signal (as long as I don’t have to slow down significantly) to let you into my lane. I am that one person that will let you in during a heavy traffic jam after no one else would. I am that person that may switch lanes to let you in if you are too close to my front end. I am that person that will move over to the right when I see you closing in on me. In fact I normally move out of the #1 lane after passing if the other lanes are clear. I am that person that allows pedestrians to cross at stop signs or in parking lots. I am that person that gives a thank you wave when you do a nice gesture for me. I am that person that throws a hand up to apologize when confronted for honest mistakes.

Why did I become so aggressive when driving the BMW and reinforce stereotypes? The main reason has to do with the speed and handling of this beautiful machine. As I’ve mentioned before, it is such a blast to drive and begs to go faster. It also handles almost like a sports car (almost, it’s a damn SUV). I’m sure this is the same reason for many other aggressive drivers in luxury and sports cars. They’re just fast and fun to drive so it’s easy to get carried away in them. Some people just take it too far. While not arrogant, I feel more confident in the thing as well than I do in “lesser” vehicles. I certainly don’t think I’m better than others and think I have a right to do whatever the hell I want because I’m driving a nicer car than you. I’m sure that applies to many folks, however. I am just less afraid of drawing attention to myself. Don’t get it twisted though. I am not that person who thinks, “Look at me in my expensive car!” and tries to show off. I certainly do not have the best car on the road or even close. I simply blend right in since I live in an affluent area. Btw, I am a college student in my early 20s and don’t seem to age at all. If you saw me, you would probably think I’m some spoiled teenage girl.

I would never place passengers at risk, especially younger ones, so I tone it down when I’m driving with others in the car. I mostly stick with the flow of traffic, making occasional passes, and go no more than 90 (usually 80) in clear conditions. I also do not follow others nearly as close. The list goes on. In fact, I often go from aggressive driver to oblivious driver when passengers are in the car with me. For some reason, most of my near misses and my most serious accident (still a minor fender bender) happened with somebody in the car, usually my sisters. We chat it up, causing me to become distracted so that I sometimes forget to check my side view mirrors before switching lanes. Btw, my mirrors are set in a way that eliminates blind spots, so that is no longer an issue. Sometimes their mere presence is distracting enough for me to make mistakes. I have now decided to take my meds more often before I drive. Their backseat driving only makes matters worse. One time I got so angry and fed up with the backseat driving of the worst offender that I began driving like a mad(wo)man, swerving between lanes without signalling and severely tailgating anyone that was in my way. Next time you see an idiot weaving violently between cars and gluing themselves to every car they come across, they might be having a bad day. Tread carefully.

I’m sure you’re thinking that people who drive like me must be rude, selfish, aggressive, stupid, whatever negative personality trait you can come up with, in every aspect of our lives. You would be completely wrong about me, however. Of course I can’t deny that many, if not most, aggressive drivers and especially the reckless ones likely fit into one of these categories. This more than likely holds true for those who have the nerve to flip you off, glare at you, or rage at you for honking or otherwise calling them out on their bad behavior. Surprisingly, I am a completely different person outside of my German bubble of relative anonymity. I am a shy, socially awkward, compassionate person who genuinely tries to be courteous to others. I am that person that hangs by the wall not talking to many people, if at all. I am that person that is a total pushover and cannot say no for fear of being seen as “mean”. I am that person that will hold the door open for you, sometimes when you’re a little too far away. I am that person who will move over for you or stay put and wait for you to pass through a narrow space. I am that person that will immediately pick up anything you drop in my vicinity. I am that person that has to find a trash can or I will leave it in my car or purse because I refuse to throw something on the ground. I am that person that will let you go ahead of me in the store checkout line if you have far less items than I do. I am that person who will (at least attempt to) help a senior citizen or handicapped person who appears to be struggling. The list goes on.

I think that’s it for now. In my next submission I will share the story of the most stupid and asinine driving I have ever done that nearly caused and accident and that I deeply regret. I just don’t want to make this post twice as long as it already is. Thank you for reading and feel free to criticize my driving habits all you want as it is well deserved. Hopefully I gave you guys enough of a glimpse into an aggressive driver’s mind, but if anyone still has any questions, please feel free to ask!”

9 Responses to “Inside the Mind of an Aggressive (and Sometimes Oblivious) Driver”

  1. This was great! Thanks to the writer for sharing, and to the website for publishing.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I was way too busy for the past several months to look until now. I’ve always been unclear on the whole leapfrogging thing and am still not so clear. What exactly is your definition of leapfrogging?

    By the way, I shared a video displaying some serious tailgating with you from my other email. Hopefully you got it?

  3. Hey Kim, it’s been hectic with the holidays! I’ll check my email soon. As far as leapfrogging goes, we use the term to define drivers that hop cars in pointless, often reckless weaving techniques. A car that was driving behind you that, say, wanted you to tailgate the car in front of you, would pull out from behind, speed past, and cut right back in front. The term originated when I lived near the Farmer’s Market in Mid-City, and you had tons of arrogant, selfish drivers pulling up next to you at a red light, say on Crescent or other roads where there is essentially only one lane going in either direction and a curb lane for parked cars. Then when the light turns green, these morons gun it and cut in front. Driving like that saves no time on one’s commute and only endangers (and in some cases enrages) other drivers. Big pet peeve for us here.

  4. Thanks for clearing that up for me. I completely get the passing one car and cutting in front thing and do find that ridiculous. I just had someone do this and cut me off last night when I was behind someone making a right turn and might send you the video (mounted this time). Sorry, but I do tend to pull up next to you at a red light, but I never cut anyone off. If I even intend to move in front of you, my car is normally able to put a lot of distance in front of the average car. If not (usually because they suddenly felt the need to drag race me and my car is barely faster than theirs), I go to the next turn or get behind them. I won’t do this if my turn is too close and only do this to slower drivers. If this annoys people, I will try to cut that out.

  5. I just hate it when the crazy egocentric stupid drivers speed through mobile home parks or parking lots. I wish there was something to instantly deflate their tires and their egos. They’re so DISGUSTING !

  6. kitty R. I see what you mean and thankfully I’m not one of them. And don’t forget residential streets. I have a very brief video of a parking lot speed demon to be edited and submitted eventually. I enjoy showing these idiots in action and learning from seeing my own mistakes.

  7. I think that’s what’s annoying about a lot of those agro drivers- they all seem a bit “socially off” and I feel like whenever they get out from behind the wheel and actually have to answer for their rudeness, they become shrinking little wimps! I guess it’s a way to get out pent out aggression, but it reeks of cowardice (and, if I’m being honest, patheticness) to me

  8. A lucky driver.

  9. While a goodly sized ocean (thankfully) separeates us, thought you might like to know I post videos of tailgaters like you and also send them to the police.

    I encourage others to do likewise and pleased to see it a growing practice.
    While autonomous cars will eventually make this unnecessary, until then, crowd policing will do much to eliminate behaviour such as yours.

    Clearly you have a self-acknowledged problem. You might be otherwise a nice person. As your behaviour becomes rarer, you will be less inclined to commit it.

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