July 2, 2013 Updated: July 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm
Authorities call motorists who tear through traffic, cut people off, tailgate and generally make the road a more dangerous place "aggressive" drivers.
It's the politically correct thing to do.
Others on the road who have to deal with these people describe them in far more colorful terms. Short, blunt words. Some accompanied with gestures, like an obscene maestro.
I yell myself hoarse, screech like an owl and gesture with every appendage. I blink furiously at them until I get a cramp in my eyelid.
Then, an epiphany. A sign. No. I mean, a sign, literally.
It had a message. Call Star CSP (*277) to report an aggressive driver.
Last week, driving up to Cripple Creek, I used it.
Star CSP is magic.
It's the best tool we have against the aggressive driver, of which there are plenty.
For the first five months of the year, the Colorado State Patrol has received 23,533 calls about aggressive drivers in Colorado. Most of those calls - about 17,000 - emanated from the Denver area. The Pueblo district, which includes El Paso County, had 4,380, said Trooper Josh Lewis.
The statewide annual totals for the last four years were: 59,933 for 2012; 61,896 for 2011; 64,913 for 2010 and 62,134 for 2009.
Since the program was started in 1998, more than 230,000 calls have come in about aggressive drivers.
This is a good thing, because it can lead to arrests and tickets, Lewis said.
"I've personally responded to calls that resulted in reckless driving tickets and have even found drunk drivers, which is certainly what we hope happens," Lewis said.
When you punch in that number, it triggers a series of events.
The call hits the dispatch center, which is in Pueblo if you make the call from El Paso County. The dispatcher decides whether it's an emergency. If so, a trooper is contacted immediately.
If it's not deemed an emergency, the call is entered into a database with the license plate. Additional complaints will generate a letter to the driver, and recurrences could lead to a visit from the Colorado State Patrol, Lewis said.
When reporting an aggressive driver, callers should have as much information as possible, including license plate number, type of vehicle, description of the driver, location, direction of travel and what the driver is doing.
It's especially helpful if you are willing to sign a complaint, he said.
"I have seen it where people call in and say they're upset, they see the driver and want something done about it, and they're not willing to sign a statement," Lewis said. "Basically, they want to vent their frustrations about what's going on."
Troopers will still respond, depending on circumstances, he added. If they see aggressive driving, they'll pull the driver over.
"The best-case scenario is that we are already in the area, or we go to the area, find the vehicle and can see that he is speeding and driving dangerously," he said. "We will stop the vehicle. Without that call, I maybe wouldn't have seen that or have been in the area."
You know you're an aggressive driver if you:
- Mentally condemn other drivers.
- Belittle other drivers to passengers in your car.
- Close the space between you and the car in front of you so another car can't merge.
- Give another driver a dirty look.
- Prevent another driver from passing you or speed past another car in protest.
- Tailgate to pressure another driver to go faster or get out of your way.
- Think or fantasize violence against another driver.
- Honk, yell or make obscene gestures at other drivers.
- Use your car to threaten or intimidate others by making sudden moves.
- Chase down another car because of an insult or infraction.
- Get out of the car and yell at another driver.
- Deliberately bump or ram another car in anger.
- Try to run another car off the road.
Source: Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association