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Understanding and Avoiding Road Rage: A Guide for Safe Driving

Road rage is the hostile behavior of those behind the wheel of a vehicle targeted toward other drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians walking next to the road. Because drivers cannot control other people’s behavior on the road, it is vital to know how to drive defensively and keep yourself and your passengers out of harm’s way. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding how to understand and avoid road rage while driving.

How Do People Identify Road Rage?

When someone is inside a vehicle, it can be challenging to assess their state of mind and determine whether or not they are being an aggressive driver or are simply an inexperienced or distracted driver. Inexperienced and distracted people on the road can pose a hazard to others and cause frustration to the drivers around them. However, they are less likely to turn hostile and provoke a road rage incident than someone who is already upset about something and looking to take that out on an unsuspecting motorist. For example, a distracted driver might accidentally cut someone off, but it is generally not because they are angry at the motorist who they cut off.

There are many ways for motorists to identify possible aggressive driving behaviors in others, such as:

  • Observing the use of obscene or threatening gestures like giving the bird or shaking a fist
  • Noticing a car weaving in and out of traffic frequently, especially if they are cutting in front of people closely
  • Seeing a vehicle follow closely behind another, even though they have the opportunity to pass safely
  • Witnessing a motorist fail to use their turn signal or run red lights in heavy traffic

Drivers can watch for these scenarios when behind the wheel to know when road rage might occur.

Importance of Early Identification

Identifying the early signs of road rage helps keep the roads safer and prevent car accidents. A courteous driver anticipates what other drivers might do, is forgiving of small mistakes, and remains calm in stressful situations.

Keep in mind that these actions typically only indicate the first stages of aggressive behavior. Angry drivers may escalate to yelling out their windows or hitting another vehicle. If someone on the road, whether another driver, cyclist, or pedestrian, observes these extreme actions, it may be time for them to report the aggression to the nearest police station.

What Triggers Road Rage?

Everyone gets angry occasionally, and different things incite anger in different people. When learning more about road rage, it is helpful to know some of the things that can lead to road rage and other unsafe driving activities, including:

  • Sitting in traffic for long periods, since being in a traffic jam can cause people to become frustrated at not getting to where they are going and lead them to take it out on other drivers
  • Feeling discouraged about life factors that have nothing to do with driving, such as finances and relationships, as this may cause people to take their feelings out on anonymous people on the highway
  • Witnessing drivers of other cars do something accidentally that they perceive as rude, such as failing to use turn signals or going slow during rush hour
  • Thinking that someone was making a rude gesture when they were simply waving another driver past

While none of these things is an excuse for responding aggressively, being aware of triggers can assist motorists with knowing when to look out for aggressive drivers.

How Can Drivers Avoid Road Rage?

Sometimes, the behavior of others affects people who are on the road or in another public location who want no part in encountering aggressive drivers. There are some steps that people can take to proactively reduce their risk of being part of a road rage incident.

Avoid Becoming a Victim

In addition to knowing how to identify aggressive driving, people can help avoid becoming a victim of an angry driver by taking steps such as:

  • Remaining calm and refraining from using the horn except when needed for safety, even when another driver becomes aggravating
  • Abstaining from changing lanes often without a good reason
  • Taking precautions to avoid tailgating when traffic in front is moving slow
  • Making eye contact before turning in front of someone, even after they signal the other car to do so
  • Pulling over when talking on the phone or texting to prevent distracted driving

In addition to keeping aggressive drivers at bay, these general safe driving practices help to prevent accidents.

Avoid Becoming a Perpetrator

Equally crucial to not becoming a victim of road rage is preventing becoming a perpetrator of this potentially criminal offense. Drivers should remember to not make rude gestures to other motorists, not sound their horn simply because they are angry, be mindful of blind spots when they change lanes, and keep a safe distance from the cars in front of them. If a motorist gets antsy or frustrated in traffic, they might consider using a distraction such as listening to music or audiobooks.

Aggressive driving can happen to anyone on the road, even someone who is not generally prone to becoming angry.

What Can Motorists Do in an Escalated Situation?

Despite all the precautions that someone can take, it is still possible for someone using a public road or sidewalk to encounter an instance of road rage. Fortunately, there are some things that people can do if this happens, such as:

  • Ignoring someone if they get out of their vehicle to try to confront another person
  • Calling a number that exists for motorists to report aggressive drivers
  • Doing when they can to remain a polite driver
  • Obeying the speed limit even if those around them choose to speed and ignore road conditions

The most important thing for drivers to remember under challenging situations is that they control their vehicle and can always decide not to become another aggressive driver on the road.

How Can Drivers Advocate for Themselves?

Motorists who find themselves in an accident can call a helpline such as 1-800-Ask-Gary to get assistance with everything from healing an injury to finding legal aid. While avoiding those who choose to drive aggressively is always prudent, things inevitably happen on the road that are not under anyone’s control, and 1800 Ask Gary is here to help.