Safety Tips If You are the Target or Aggressor of Road Rage

If you drive, you have likely had someone to honk their horn at you, roll down their window to scream at you, or make an unfavorable hand gesture. Of course, we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control how we respond to the negative actions of other drivers. Often, once the person “blows off steam”, they are on their way without incident. But what happens if the situation escalates into something more known as “road rage”.

The consequences of road rage can lead to injury, accidents, and even death.

Road rage is defined as anger caused by the stress and frustration triggered by another motorist’s act and is expressed by aggressive and violent behavior. Road rage is caused by a variety of reasons, including traffic jams, excessive horn honking, tailgating (“riding your bumper”), vehicle accidents, rude gestures, excessive speed, weaving in and out of traffic, driving too slowly, yelling from one’s vehicle, and distracted driving (on cell phone or not paying attention) to name a few.  Safe Motorists report 66% of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.

When You’re the Target of Road Rage

How does one respond to aggressive behavior on the road? What signs demonstrate that the situation has escalated to road rage? The aggressor may give you a nasty glare or attempt to communicate by rude hand gestures or scream verbal obscenities. Sometimes the aggressor will position their vehicle in front of yours and attempt to make you hit their car by slamming on their brakes. Conversely, he or she may drive up closely to the bumper of your vehicle, as if to hit your car. All the while, tempers in both vehicles are soaring, which can make for a very dangerous outcome. Not paying full attention to the road is a recipe for disaster and for a serious accident. 

Being mindful of ways to de-escalate or diffuse a road rage situation can quite possibly save your life and the lives of other unassuming motorists on the road at the same time. 

Here are a few safety tips to help prevent road rage: 

  1. Create distance. When you have determined that you are the intended target of road rage, be smart about every action you take. Never pull over and attempt to confront the aggressor or try to explain your actions on the road. Pulling over may be interpreted by the aggressor as an invitation to take the altercation to the next level. Stay in your vehicle. Leave distance between the vehicles around you in case you need to quickly exit the area. Don’t allow yourself to be “boxed in”, which reduces your options for escape. 
  2. You are being followed. If you determine that the aggressor driver is following you, call 911 and report it immediately. If you are safely able to capture the license plate number and the make and model if the vehicle, that will prove helpful when alerting the authorities. Also, be mindful of your location. Take notice of the exit signs and mile markers to help the responding police locate you and find the perpetrator. If you have an emergency response feature in your car, activate it and tell the responder what is happening. 
  3. You decide to exit the highway. If you decide to exit the highway or take a different route and you notice that the aggressor is going the same way, try to locate the local police department and drive there. Sometimes this is enough to discourage the aggressor from continuing to pursue you. Never drive to your home or the location of anyone you know if you are being followed. Stay in well-populated and well-lit areas until help can locate you. 
  4. Don’t engage the aggressor. Never instigate the situation by yelling at the person, using rude hand gestures, tapping your brakes, or tailgating the aggressor. You don’t know how far the person is willing to go to win the road rage fight or if they might have a weapon in their vehicle. Your actions could also be misconstrued by another motorist and cause an unintended road rage incident. 

The best way to avert a road rage confrontation is to avoid it. Pay attention on the road. Watch other motorists and their actions. If you see anything that feels threatening, take action to remove yourself from the area and contact the police. Aggressive drivers don’t care about you and will engage with anyone who is willing to engage with them. No altercation is worth a roadside fight, a vehicle accident, or worse. You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “Stay in your lane!” Do that and reach your destination safely. 

When You’re the Aggressor of Road Rage

Sometimes our own personal circumstances can cause us to be less patient and more anxious on the road. Controlling yourself may help to diffuse a possible road rage incident. The less stressed you feel on the road, the better your chances are of becoming the aggressor. 

Here are a few tips for staying in control of your temperament while driving to avoid road rage: 

  1. Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. When you are in a hurry, you create unnecessary stress for yourself and become less tolerate of anything and anyone who causes you to be further delayed from reaching your destination. Adding stress to an already stressful situation may lead to road rage behavior. Plan for the unexpected travel delays. Give yourself plenty of time! 
  2. Remember the consequences. For every negative action, there is the possibility for an unfavorable consequence. Before you act, think about the potential outcome. What can you lose if you act dangerously in a moment of rage. It’s likely not worth it!
  3. Honking your horn unnecessarily is not recommended. There is something about having someone honk their horn at you that causes a visceral reaction. Use your horn only to give an audible warn about unsafe conditions on the road. Using your horn unnecessarily or flashing your headlights may be interpreted as road rage. 
  4. Do not pursue the other party. If you find that you have become enraged by another motorist, do not follow their car. Stay in your car, pull over and calm down. It’s not worth having an altercation that may lead to a fight or death. 
  5. Call someone you care about to calm yourself down. If you find that your anger is taking over, call someone to “talk you off the ledge” or calm you down. You may also need to consider a course in Anger Management if you are unable to control your road rage and your unruly behavior on the road becomes a pattern. 
  6. Consider the other person. The person in the other vehicle may be dealing with a traumatic situation and may be having a bad day. When one angry person encounters another angry person, the outcome may result in an explosive exchange that could have a deadly consequence. Drive away and calm yourself down. 
  7. The goal is to reach your destination. Be reminded that you have a destination and you had plans to reach it. Whatever happens along the way that causes you anxiety or rage is simply not worth it. Get where you are going. The goal is to ultimately to reach the people you care about most at the end of the day. Keep that in mind before your rage takes over!

Follow these tips and avoid being either the aggressor or the victim of road rage and make it to your destination safely.

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