Defensive vs. Aggressive - Knowing the Difference

by Becca Marsh on 2019-07-12 11:34am

To be aggressive, or not to be? That is the question - whether ‘tis nobler to stop at the yellow light or blow through it? Ok, maybe not exactly how Shakespeare would have worded it, but it’s still a valid question. Where is the line between defensive driving and aggressive driving? Is there a difference and, if so, what is it?



Defensive driving and aggressive driving are actually very different, and the main difference comes down to one main component: safety. Aggressive driving is generally defined as driving in a way as to endanger other persons or property. Yikes! In contrast, defensive driving can be explained as using driving strategies that minimize risk and increase safety.


Aggressive driving is a huge contributor to the millions of yearly motor vehicle accidents. It also, unfortunately, is the cause of over 50% of fatal accidents. The  contributing factors to these accidents, in no particular order, are: 

  • Reckless Driving
  • Failure to Yield to Right of Way
  • Speeding
  • Failure to Obey Traffic Control Devices



Where you fall on the safe driving spectrum? 

  • Do you speed up at the yellow light?
  • Do you generally drive a few (or more) MPH over the posted speed limit?
  • Do you change lanes regularly?
  • Do you feel like everyone is a bad driver?
  • Do you toot your horn more than a train conductor?

If you said “Yes” to any of those questions, you are showing signs of being an aggressive driver. Maybe you’re late to work, having a bad day, or are hustling home to use the restroom. The fact is, the time you’re saving and the aggression you’re showing (whether you feel it or not) could manifest as a ticket, accident, or an injury to you or others. The excuse you use won’t change the outcome.


Some easy tips to become less aggressive and more defensive include:

  • Avoid driving when stressed, emotional, or angry
  • Practice patience (deep breaths - in through your nose and out through your mouth)
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination
  • Use your turn signals - not your horn
  • Take a Defensive Driving Course


We all have our moments of hurry, impatience, and/or anger. But these should be the exception, not the rule. 


Drive safe. Drive happy. Drive defensively.