Survey finds Portland drivers the most courteous

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PORTLAND, Ore.- Portlanders come up roses in a new national survey of courteous drivers, but some local people are skeptical of that ranking. Portland police say traffic congestion is getting worse as the population grows, and that will lead to an increase in road rage and aggressive driving.

KATU News spoke with people all over downtown Portland Tuesday, who say drivers here may not be as "mean" as those in Los Angeles and Miami, but they're certainly not the nicest either.

"(Portland) people are the most courteous? No!" one woman remarked.

"I'd have to disagree with that. Being a big guy, a pro wrestler, I get confronted all the time," said another motorist, who calls himself "Dr. Pain."

From his dashboard cam, Portland police officer Tom Larson has captured it all: aggression, speeding, tailgating, and obscene gestures between drivers. He says the department does not track statistics, but they acknowledge traffic is only getting more congested, and Portland's nice drivers will naturally become meaner.

"Just from population increase, the numbers have to go up," Larson said, referring to the number of ticket citations. "There's no speed involved, but it's still aggressive because they're trying to beat the clock and get ahead of everyone else."

Some drivers already see that change happening, and KATU News has covered several road range incidents in recent months - from drivers getting clubbed to cars being shot at.

"Some guy thought I cut him off (recently) and he flicked me off," recalled Dr. Pain.

Another woman named Jennifer says she was recently trying to signal to a driver he was driving too slow.

"He slammed on his brakes and started chasing me after that," she told KATU News.

It's not all doom and gloom.

Portland resident Charls Grixgby says he would prefer to believe the survey's glowing review of Portland drivers.

"I (drive) to Jantzen Beach, Lloyd Center, Town Center, on the freeway-- they're fantastic!" he said about other motorists.

Police say the only way they can curb the impending rage is to issue more tickets. Officer Larson says he is not taking Portland's new status too seriously, because the results are based on a phone poll rather than actual data.

Experts say drivers can avoid aggressive encounters on the road by not gesturing or making too much eye contact.