There are over 1,200 annually reported cases of road rage in the US; a quarter of them result in fatalities or serious injuries.
Most if not all drivers can relate to the term “road rage”: we might have been subjected to aggressive behaviour of other drivers, and we might have felt a hot swell of anger raising in our own chests when another road user did something blatantly unreasonable.
Road rage can be seen as an extreme manifestation of aggressive driving. “Aggressive driving” describes a range of behaviours. Some of them can be caused by other reasons, especially poor driving skills: sudden acceleration and braking, slow driving, late reactions, hesitation. Most involve purposeful actions on part of the driver: close tailgating, cutting others off, excessive use of horn and lights, rude gestures, facial expressions, verbal abuse and using the vehicle as means of intimidation and in extreme cases as a weapon, to intentionally cause a collision or force another driver to drive off road to avoid a crash. Most cases referred to as actual road rage will have an element of personal confrontation: at least a heated exchange of verbal invective, banging on the other car, throwing objects at it, attempted or actual physical assault to another driver.
The best way to avoid road rage is to distance ourselves from the situation. Defensive driving is the key to success. Make the car less part of your ego and more a tool used to achieve a particular end. Don’t give in to road rage yourself and learn how to avoid the rage of others.
* Give yourself enough time for your journey to avoid stress and frustration to do with being late. It’s easier said than done, but the less external reasons you have to rage, the less likely you are to give in to it.
* Try to empathise. “Slow drivers” are listed as one of the top annoyance on the road, just behind tailgating, but most of people who are driving slowly (and perhaps *too* slowly) do it for a reason. They might be a begginer driver. They might be feeling below par: tired, lacking sleep, coming back from a doctor’s with a flu and fever. They might be a foreigner not used to driving on our side of the road or unfamiliar with the traffic system and rules. They might be lost or looking for an address or a road coming off a highway. They might have a screaming baby in the car and dividing attention between the driving and the child. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
* Aggressive driving is the first step to road rage. Don’t indulge in aggressive driving yourself
* Don’t take it personally. It’s not all about you. Driving at 70 miles an hour on a public road is not the best place and time for ego trips and showing your winning instincts. It’s better to be late than dead. It’s better to feel momentarily humiliated than to be in hospital or court.
* Don’t get provoked but don’t get pushed. Drive the best you can with your skill, experience, knowledge of the area, the weather, car you are in and your mental and physical state. It’s not a competition.
* You cannot control the way other people drive. Trying to vent the frustration may make you do things you will regret later. You can’t change them. But you can control the way you react to them and it’s up to you whether you let their behaviour influence you. Yes, there some really bad drivers out there, but it’s better to do everything you can to calm down and back off.
* Most of all, keep a sense of proportion. There is no insult, real or perceived, that is worth dying for. There is very few that are worth a possible criminal record, custodial sentence or thousands of dollars spend on legal fees.
* Unless there was an accident and you are legally obliged to stop and/or exchange insurance details, don’t stop and get out of the car to talk to, reason with or confront the other driver. This will remove any temptation to go further than you might later consider reasonable, but it will also mean that he or she won’t have a chance to have a go at you.
* Try to find another outlet for your feelings of frustration and anger at bad driving of others. If the offender is a commercial vehicle, call their employer. If it’s a private car, note the numberplate and file a report on them on a site like www.roadragers.com , www.driversrevenge.com , www.platerage.com or many others. You can also discuss your experience with other drivers on forums.
* Don’t retaliate. Keep calm. Don’t take the other driver’s behaviour personally. Don’t get involved, don’t get provoked: it often takes two to create a spiral of confrontation, and when each of you is armed with a fast moving pile of metal, things can get ugly, expensive and lethal.
* Make every attempt to get out of the way. If necessary, take the next exit off the highway/motorway or change your route to your destination. If you know you are not being followed, stop in a safe place and calm down.
* Don’t make eye contact: any expression of yours can be interpreted as aggressive and used to justify escalation by an rage-filled driver. Keep your eyes fixed on the road, concentrate on the driving and try to move away, calmly and efficiently.
* If you are being followed, don’t try to “lose” the other driver: it may make you drive dangerously and put you at risk of accident Keep to the speed limit, don’t jump the red lights. But don’t drive straight home or pull over and stop, either. Drive to the nearest police station and report the offender.
* Do everything to avoid physical confrontation. Don’t stop, don’t get out of the car. If you are already in this situation (for example you had a minor accident) and the other driver is starting to behave in an aggressive way, do everything to maintain calm but confident attitude.
More than 100 people die on American roads every single day, and almost 15 hundred are seriously injured. Don’t become a cipher in those statistics.