Here’s the truth about van drivers being so aggressive:
Van drivers, like any other road user, can become aggressive due to various emotional challenges and bad personality traits.
While most people falsely think that all van drivers are habitually aggressive, that’s an old-fashioned stereotype that perhaps borrows from the UK phrase “white van man.”
Sarah Kennedy, a BBC Radio 2 presenter, came up with the phrase in 1997 to describe the type of driver who cut her up in her morning commute to work.
I’d like to think it’s become so mainstream, and you may have heard of it in certain parts of the US too.
So buckle up, and let’s tackle the elephant in the room.
Why Van Drivers Can Become Aggressive
In all honesty, van drivers come from all walks of life, and you may encounter an aggressive one on any road.
Here is what can make a van driver so aggressive:
1. Heavy Traffic Puts Them Off
Let’s be blunt: nothing frustrates a road user more than a congested highway. As long as the road is packed to the brim, impatient motorists will start competing for space.
I dread rush hour myself, and a van driver who fears that a few minutes will be taken off their ETA may lose their heads and drive in a deranged manner.
That’s something you can easily notice with some van couriers and delivery drivers, so don’t be surprised next time you encounter one piloting a big blue delivery van (PS: with a smiley).
2. Inexperienced Van Drivers Lack Emotional Control
A savvy van driver will demonstrate a remarkable degree of emotional control and composure, even if they get slighted.
But an inexperienced driver is likely to have poor emotional control, meaning they’ll quickly get flipped and take it out on everyone with their road rage.
They feel like everyone who drives slower than them is a moron, and their competitive side means that anyone who dares go faster than them is a maniac, and unacceptable.
So they don’t pay attention, honk annoyingly, tailgate, speed dangerously, brake late, and make all sorts of poorly planned maneuvers.
3. Egotistic Van Drivers Ignore Traffic Rules
A self-absorbed van driver will often feel like certain road rules don’t apply to them. If anything, they imagine being in control of a heavy metal cocoon traveling at high speeds gives them power.
Interestingly, they know you can’t damage their van, and won’t risk damaging your car, or worse – get killed. So they use their van as a weapon to gain that power over you.
With such dangerous personality traits, they become furious easily. They may direct their anger to all drivers or one particular driver who gets on their nerves.
The results are pretty obvious and nasty – a series of mindless battles that inconvenience other motorists.
4. They Falsely Believe They’re Anonymous
Irrational van drivers feel they’re anonymous and safe in their vans, and may indulge in all manner of mischief believing you can’t trace them.
The apparent feeling of high protection that comes from being locked inside a van may lead them to think they’re invincible, and it fuels their aggressive driving tactics.
5. Antisocial & Vengeful People Drive Aggressively
An antisocial individual may also turn out to be vengeful, overly competitive, and violent behind the wheel.
Remember, when tasked with driving a van, such an individual may not express concern and empathy for others. Instead, the “beast” within them is activated at the slightest provocation.
To them, they don’t see someone’s dad, mom, son, or daughter behind the other wheel. Rather, it’s just another obstacle that’s eating into their time and worth punishing.
And if they choose to be competitive, they challenge other motorists and drive aggressively just for the adrenaline shot.
On social media, I’ve even seen an amateur video about a van driver who was allegedly trying to tailgate a Ferrari!
6. Road Designs Can Tempt Aggressive Van Drivers
In my opinion, certain road designs may tempt individuals who are inherently aggressive to drive provocatively.
If they wind up on a wide, long stretch of tarmac with not so many vehicles to give them the nudge of playing cool, they’ll easily hit the gas and turn it into a racetrack.
7. Van Conditions May Get Uncomfortable
Think of it this way: you’re driving a company van with a failed AC on another great Texas day in the middle of the summer.
Driving with the sliding door open at this point is practically unreasonable and dangerous. I can only imagine the kinds of ugly tantrums an individual in that situation can throw, lest they implode.
That obviously doesn’t justify anything, but van drivers who get uncomfortable in their vans due to unbearable weather conditions can become aggressive.
The Price For Driving a Van Aggressively
Research carried out by the NHTSA shows that a tremendous proportion of road accidents and fatalities arise from aggressive driving.
According to the NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures), speed-related crashes impose an estimated annual burden of $40 billion on society.
Besides causing accidents, aggressive driving doesn’t end well in the courts, and it’s a crime punishable by law.
How to Respond to Aggressive Van Drivers
Here are six helpful tips on how you can steer clear of aggressive van drivers:
1. Protect Yourself & Report Aggressive Drivers
If you’re stuck in traffic and come across an aggressive van driver, make sure all your car doors are locked. Simply call 911 or drive to the nearest police station if the perpetrator attacks you.
If you call to report such a case, be sure to provide a full and detailed description of the incident.
It helps to note the van’s identification plate, the location of the incident, and other relevant details.
2. Don’t Confront the Aggressive Driver
Try your best not to challenge an aggressive van driver by engaging them in a heated verbal exchange or counter-racing them.
Just breathe, assume you’re the only reasonable person, give them space, and don’t release your ego. Take down the details you need, as it is the insurance company and authorities that will make the final decision.
With that, make sure you get out of there safely if there are any risks at all. Who knows, you may be dealing with a psycho.
3. Obey Traffic Rules
Trust your instincts, stick with the lights and other road signs, so you reach your destination safely and with a relaxed mind.
Remember, two wrongs don’t make a right – so don’t break any laws to counteract an aggressive van driver.
4. Remain Alert
You must be on the lookout at all times and observe all the events on the road carefully since aggressive drivers are unpredictable and might appear from the shadows.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Eye Contact
Curiously, people could interpret prolonged eye contact as an aggressive reaction. Always keep your eyes on the road and drive defensively to be on the safer side.
6. Admit When You Commit an Error
If you accidentally cut someone off or decrease your stopping distance, signal other motorists, reduce your speed, and maintain the correct lane.
In my experience, this could communicate to the other driver that you are apologetic for an unintended mistake.
In a Nutshell
If you come to think of it, being aggressive can pay off at times in life, let’s say in business, to conquer those new market frontiers. It’s also fine when you’re wrestling a humongous cockroach in your kitchen.
But certain situations call for straight thinking and composure, and driving a van makes a good example.
It’s encouraging to see that van drivers, just as any other CDL drivers, are taking their responsibilities seriously.
That said, the age-old notion that generalizes all van drivers as aggressive is far-fetched and misleading.
However, like any other road user and a human at that, van drivers can be potentially aggressive.
We all deal with human complexities differently, have unique life experiences, and face uncomfortable situations differently, meaning a van driver could take their impulsiveness to the road.
Some van drivers may resort to aggressive tendencies at certain times of the day or take it out on everyone due to congested traffic, unbearable weather, hunger, fatigue, etc.
Ultimately, it all boils down to their emotional conditions and the perceived capabilities of their vans.
Whether it involves a van or not, aggressive driving is a major cause of road accidents, and it’s a problem we can solve promptly if we understand the causes.
Moreover, safety should be your top priority on the road, even if you encounter a maniac behind the wheel.
You must actively manage your emotions and control your reactions to avoid escalating issues with aggressive van drivers.