Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

Effective responses to aggressive driving will take into account the preceding general information about the dynamics and contributing factors to it, as well as a specific understanding of your local problem. An analysis of the local problem will shape the most effective response possible in your jurisdiction.

Responses tend to work best when based on sound data about problem behaviors, locations, times of day, physical features, and offender characteristics in your locale.

Stakeholders

In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the aggressive driving problem, and you should consider them for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it.

Elected officials can gauge public concern about the problem and enact legislation to address it.

The media can call attention to aggressive driving issues and how to avoid becoming a victim or a perpetrator.

State and local motor vehicle and highway safety departments may have conducted their own studies of the problem and can identify and mitigate the physical environmental factors that contribute to aggressive driving.

Transportation safety advocates may also have conducted studies of the problem and can raise awareness about aggressive driving, and work with states and localities to reduce the factors that contribute to it.

Private businesses, including business associations, have a stake in ensuring employees can commute to their jobs safely and efficiently. They can partner with states and localities in addressing aggressive driving issues and disseminating information to employers, especially to businesses that have vehicle fleets.

Private businesses, including cellular phone and data companies, which keep records on electronic device use, can be partners in providing evidence after violations.

Motor vehicle insurance companies benefit financially when traffic collisions are reduced. They can partner with police to fund research on aggressive driving, develop community education materials, and include information on aggressive driving in their publications.

Road construction contractors can work with police to design road construction sites and traffic detours to minimize traffic disruptions and optimize safety.

Auto clubs can educate members about ways to avoid being either a victim or a perpetrator of aggressive driving.

Victims' advocacy organizations can collect data on aggressive driving victimization for use in assessing the extent and severity of a locale's problem.

Public health agencies' and hospitals' injury prevention staff can conduct research on the prevalence of aggressive driving, its contribution to injuries, and the injuries' social and cost impacts. These data can support police problem-solving efforts.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of aggressive driving, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on. The various entities with a stake in the problem and its solution can help you collect some of these data, as not all of the information will be readily available to police.

If you rely solely on traffic crash and citation data, recognize that you will not have a complete picture of the problem, as much aggressive driving goes undetected, unenforced, or unreported.

Incidents

  • How many aggressive driving incidents occur in your jurisdiction? How many do other motorists report to police? How many do police discover during a vehicle crash investigation? How many unreported incidents are estimated to occur? (You would need to conduct a survey of motorists to obtain this information.)
  • What harms do you know aggressive driving is causing in your jurisdiction? Vehicle crashes? Injuries? Psychological trauma (e.g., fear)?
  • Who brings the incidents to police attention? Are they mostly on-views, technology-initiated, citizen-reported, or some combination?
  • What are the most prevalent and/or most dangerous aggressive driving behaviors in your jurisdiction?
  • What types of events trigger the aggressive driving incidents?
  • How concerned is the community about aggressive driving?

Offenders

  • Are there certain driver profiles that stand out in your jurisdiction (e.g., the antisocial or competitive drivers described earlier)?
  • What do aggressive drivers say about their motivations for driving aggressively?
  • What proportion of cited aggressive drivers are repeat offenders?

Victims/Complainants

  • Are most victims/complainants also engaging in aggressive driving behaviors before documented incidents?
  • Are most victims/complainants engaging in nonaggressive behaviors that typically irritate other drivers (e.g., driving slowly in the left lane)?
  • What do you know about the demographics of victims/complainants (e.g., age, gender, race, and ethnicity)?
  • Are there any tensions among different demographic groups contributing to the aggressive driving complaints?

Locations/Times

  • Where do aggressive driving incidents typically occur?
  • Are there environmental factors at hot spots that contribute to the incidence of aggressive driving (e.g., road construction, confusing intersections, congested roads)?
  • Are there situational factors related to the location that contribute to the incidence of aggressive driving?
  • Are most incidents on freeways, arterials, collectors, or residential streets?
  • When do most incidents occur (time of day, day of week, special occasions, seasons)? What is it about these times that contribute to aggressive driving?

Current Responses

  • How do police respond to aggressive driving complaints?
  • To what extent do police officers actively look for and intervene in aggressive driving?
  • How many citations/arrests do police issue/make for aggressive driving offenses?
  • What penalties or other sentences are typically imposed on those convicted for aggressive driving offenses?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results.

You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 1, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to aggressive driving:

  • reduced number of crashes in which aggressive driving is a contributing/causal factor, broken down by property damage only, injury, and fatality;
  • reduced severity of injuries;
  • reduced number of citizen reports and requests for police response (these may increase initially if citizens are encouraged to report aggressive driving more often); and
  • improved driver perceptions of safety.