The car was suddenly on my tail, out of nowhere. Another passed on my left going well over 100 miles per hour as another wove in and out of traffic on my right. My hands gripped the steering wheel, and I couldn’t help wondering, “Why does this continue to happen? Where did these maniac drivers come from?”

And thus, I have begun to hate driving.

In 2020, despite far fewer people driving on the roads, more people died in car wrecks. In fact, motor vehicle deaths rose to the highest in 13 years.

My mama bear instincts are in high gear right now, so this article ends with five tips to survive crazy drivers so that you, too, can share this information and keep your loved ones safer.

What is happening on America’s highways?

Statistically, motor vehicle deaths are up, and I can’t help but notice that time and time again, I find myself in someone else’s drag race. Meanwhile, I’m just trying to get to the grocery store.

According to the United States Department of Transportation:

“While Americans drove less in 2020 due to the pandemic, NHTSA’s early estimates show that an estimated 38,680 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes — the largest projected number of fatalities since 2007. This represents an increase of about 7.2 percent as compared to the 36,096 fatalities reported in 2019.”

Preliminary data shows that vehicles drove 13.2 percent LESS in 2020, as we would all expect. But again, deaths were up 7.2 percent. The main culprits according to the USDT are “…impaired driving, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt.”

My oldest daughter recently graduated from the University of South Carolina. I would love to say I had a restful night’s sleep at our hotel. But no. Drag racing all night long right outside our hotel window. As my in-laws, my mom, and my husband drank coffee at breakfast, we all complained about the racing that woke us up throughout the night.

The Washington Post reported on this COVID-instigated phenomenon as early as May 2020:

“We’re getting reports every week of dozens of drivers being cited for traveling over 100 miles an hour. That’s just insanity for our roadways,” said Michael Hanson, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety in Minnesota, where 42 people were killed in traffic collisions in the first 45 days after the state’s March 16 stay-at-home order went into effect. By comparison, 29 people were killed on Minnesota highways during the same period in 2019.

“We have had half the traffic and twice as many fatalities,” Hanson said. “We have more available lane space for drivers to use and abuse … and people are really, really abusing.”

Unfortunately, while our highways are full again, these reckless drivers don’t seem to be slowing down. After a billion Fast & Furious movies, who knew that it would take a pandemic to bring the screen to reality on our streets?

This past Saturday, I was sitting at a traffic light waiting to turn left onto I-440 in Nashville. As the red arrow lights continued to shine, not one, but TWO cars decided to turn left anyway. Both cars made the conscious decision to violate the red lights which were holding them back! I could not believe it.

Twenty minutes later, as I was about to take a left at another left-hand turn (as I had a green light), another car ran a red light, barely missing my car. This was not a just-turned red light. This was a good 10 seconds after the light had turned red for this driver.

I find myself constantly worried when my 17-year old is driving around town. I continue to harp on defensive driving techniques. These drivers are lunatics. Lunatics!

In late April 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported on “Drivers Won’t Stop Speeding, and Cities Are Trying New Tactics to Get Them to Slow Down.” Tactics include more traffic cameras, more tickets being issued, and even some speed limits being lowered. For the first quarter of 2021, 40 percent of vehicle deaths are attributed to excessive speed, up from 25 percent during the same period in 2020.

What can we do as drivers on the road? We may be unable to stop the insanity that is happening around us on our roadways, but we can step up our own safety.

5 Tips to Survive Crazy Drivers!

Tip #1: Remove distractions and drive defensively.

We all know not to text and drive. But, we need to do more. Don’t pick up the phone at red lights. Keep your mind focused when driving. Don’t rely on other drivers to drive safely. Now is the time to take a “safety first” mindset seriously. Have your seatbelt on. Look both ways when the light turns green to make sure another car is not going to run that red light. Make sure you have plenty of room between you and the car in front of you.

Tip #2: When needed, get off the road. 

Look 30 seconds ahead on the interstate, and pay attention to what is going on behind you as well. If you are worried about your safety, get off the highway and take a five-minute break. That five minutes can save your life. It’s worth it. By all means, avoid cars that are unsafe.

Tip #3: Do not engage. Do not engage. Do not engage!

Do not engage with unsafe cars. Road rage is never good. Simply back off. Take deep breaths and get out of a road rager’s way.

Tip #4: Keep your eyes on the road.

It’s worth repeating: be a fully engaged driver. Stop looking for your food, your sunglasses, your ChapStick. Driving is more stressful and statistically more lethal now. Embrace that fact and get into your car knowing this. You need to pay attention. Put a Post-It reminder on your car visor if you need to. STAY FOCUSED!

Tip #5: Follow the rules.

Go the speed limit. Come to full stops at stop signs. Do not be swept up into unsafe driving just because it is being modeled all around you. The rules keep you safe.

Driving is an everyday must for most, but it’s more dangerous today. That’s a fact. While we typically aren’t alarmists at StyleBlueprint, every day seems to bring a new story of a crazy driver on the road. Be careful!

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