Road rage is an extension of aggressive driving, and everyone is susceptible to it or has seen it at least once while on the road. A driver’s uncontrolled anger or rage at the actions of another driver resulting in aggressive or violent behavior constitutes as road rage. This differs from aggressive driving in that it escalates into actions such as intentionally hitting another vehicle, running someone off the road, stopping to engage in a physical confrontation, and even using a weapon.
According to the AAA Foundation of for Traffic Safety, the majority of aggressive-drivers-turned-road-ragers are younger male drivers. Still, everyone is susceptible to road rage, especially if the individual is under stress or frustrated in other parts of his or her life. Traffic congestion can contribute to the stressed, anxious feelings, which can potentially burst into road rage when it appears as though a fellow driver has intentionally or unintentionally acted aggressively. If you’re wondering if you’re prone to road rage, ask yourself these questions:
Do you often drive faster than the speed limit or try to beat red lights because you’re always in a hurry?
Do you flash your high beams or drive close behind another driver if you feel like they’re moving too slow?
Do you lay on the horn often?
Do you make rude gestures or communicate angrily at other drivers?
If you answered yes to these questions, and do so frequently, you might have a tendency to road rage. Road rage is a criminal charge; aggressive driving is a lesser traffic offense, but both are dangerous. Read on if you know you’re susceptible to road rage, or want to know what to do to when you encounter a road rager.
10 Ways to Prevent Road Rage
1. Listen to relaxing music: Listening to relaxing music can really help, especially if you start feeling stressed, frustrated, or angry. Concentrate on breathing and avoid aggressive or triggering thoughts. Focus on thinking about neutral topics unrelated to external driving conditions.
2. Be sure to get enough sleep. Driving without sufficient rest can contribute to irritability and being quick to anger. On top of making you more susceptible to road rage, sleepiness can be dangerous while driving. No one wants tired eyes to close while on the road.
3. Leave earlier to go to places. People become more-easily frustrated when they feel like they’re running out of time. The stress of lateness can feel extra aggravating when hitting red lights or traffic. If caught in traffic, it helps to accept you’re running late and try to relax from there.
4. Remember road-sharing mentality. Particularly in traffic, recall that everyone else around you is stuck waiting too. You’ll want to uphold behaviors that keep conditions safe for all drivers. Recall that nobody’s perfect, but you’re all expected to comply with laws to navigate the road safely.
5. Maintain space between you and other drivers. Aggressive driving often shows up as tailgating and driving too-close-for-comfort to other travelers. Leave plenty of room. Anticipate other drivers making mistakes — if you’re too close, someone slamming on the brakes could cause an accident.
6. Be aware of your driving and triggers. Start paying attention to what makes you mad on the road, whether that be driving-specific situations or issues outside the car that filter into your driving. Note how long you stay angry in these circumstances. Recognizing them can help you avoid those conditions and approach them more positively when they occur.
7. Refrain from eye-contact and obscene gestures. Allowing yourself to angrily act out at another driver may incite them toward aggressive behavior as well. Additionally, removing your focus from the road creates another safety hazard.
8. Avoid verbally venting frustrations. Shouting out frustrations may not be as cathartic as you’d expect. Venting can actually increase feelings of frustration and danger.
9. Put photos or soothing images on your dashboard. Without placing them in a spot that obstructs your view in any way, seeing photos of loved ones or favorite places can calm you down if you start to grow angry. You want to drive safely to make it back to these people, pets, or places.
10. Consider the cost. If money is a good deterrent, accident damage and criminal charges are not cheap. Even if no one gets hurt following a road rage incident, tickets, lawyers, and insurance rates can grow expensive — fast.
5 Ways to Avoid Road Ragers
Should you encounter a road rager, you want to stay out of their way and avoid engaging. You might not notice someone with aggressive driving behaviors, so here are 5 practices to avoid someone else’s road rage and any dangerous consequences.
1. Drive predictably and considerately. This means signaling, checking for space when merging, not looking at your cell phone, and other safe driving practices. While things happen accidentally, it’s best to try to avoid contributing to any issues.
2. Honk only if you have too. Honking in response to an aggressive and angry act may only enhance their road rage. Only honk if there’s a safety issue, such as someone changing lanes without seeing your car.
3. Avoid angry motorists when you see them. Don’t speed up to get by someone if you see they’re driving aggressively. Change lanes if you’re being tailgated, slow down to let someone who wants to pass go ahead, and stay behind the angry driver. It’s harder for them to hurt you if you’re behind them. If necessary, pull off the road or take the next exit to get out of their way.
4. Ignore obscene gestures. Don’t fuel road rage fire — don’t make eye contact or react in any way that engages an angry driver, like returning their gestures or visibly yelling from inside the car.
5. Don’t be afraid to report road rage to the authorities. Reporting something could actually save lives. Law enforcement may be able to reach the angry driver before an accident happens. If you witness an accident happen from a road raging vehicle, call the police, but be cautious and use your judgment about approaching the driver — aggressive drivers can be unpredictable. Also, do not go home in an upset driver is following you. Call the police and wait for their help.