Road Rage: Calm Down and Drive

We’ve all experienced it. We are sitting at a traffic stop, running late for work. The light changes to green…and the car in front of us fails to move. We see if we can spot just who the driver is–what are they doing and why aren’t they driving? We may be tempted to honk. We may feel angry. We may even want to give them a piece of our minds. All of these, to some degree, are normal urges. However, when these urges cross into acts of aggression or irrational behavior, they become dangerous not just to ourselves but to others.

What is Road Rage?

Did you know that the term “road rage” was first coined by KTLA news during the summer of 1987, when a series of murders and injuries occurred on Southern California highways? The Los Angeles Times referred to it as “highway hostility,” but “road rage” is the moniker that stuck to describe the dangerous ways drivers allow their emotions to affect them on the road, and is now even officially defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle.” Road rage is considered to be a criminal offense because the driver is unconcerned about the safety of those around them, and in many cases, may actually be intent on causing harm.

Similar to road rage is aggressive driving, which the NHTSA defines as a traffic violation.  Aggressive driving will often appear as the following:

  • Excessive speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Swerving and changing lanes to avoid traffic
  • Ignoring traffic signs and signals

Do You Have Road Rage? 

Some of us may be more prone to emotional driving than others, so it is important to recognize these facts about ourselves for the safety of all. You may be more likely to engage in aggressive driving or road rage if you:

  • Find yourself trying to “beat” traffic lights or other drivers on the road
  • Frequently speed because you want to arrive at your destination faster
  • Feel it necessary to honk or use your headlights to force another driver to drive faster
  • Frequently tailgate
  • Find yourself wanting to communicate with other drivers through gestures or yelling

Do You Contribute to Road Rage in Others? 

While some of us may be more emotional while driving, there are also behaviors we may exhibit that could trigger other drivers into rage. Sometimes aggressive drivers are triggered by proper behavior, such as following the speed limit, which you should never feel guilty for; however, some unsafe behaviors may also trigger unsafe drivers. Do you recognize any of the following in yourself?

  • You frequently drive distracted and use your phone or fiddle with the radio while driving
  • You drive with your brights (high beams) on despite oncoming traffic
  • You fail to signal before switching lanes or turning
  • You fail to check your blind spot before switching lanes
  • You drive below the speed limit or fluctuate your speed without reason

What Should I Do Around An Aggressive Driver?

If you find yourself on the road near an aggressive driver, there are several steps you can take to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road. The easiest action to take is to slow down, switch lanes, or even change routes to avoid the driver. If you are unable to do these, then the following may be necessary:

  1. Do not get emotional. Don’t allow the other driver’s aggression to affect your state of mind.
  2. Do not engage the driver. They may be looking for trouble and could take any sign of engagement from you as one of aggression.
  3. Do not honk. Honking will almost always escalate the situation.
  4. Do not pull over to confront the driver or allow them to confront you. Similarly, if an aggressive driver follows you, drive to a public location and remain in your vehicle.
  5. If the aggressive driver attempts to force you off the road, call 911.

What it all comes down to is focused, responsible driving. You cannot control others on the road around you, but you can control how you react to situations or how your unsafe behavior may contribute to other drivers.

A Note About Road Safety During COVID-19

During this uncertain time, it becomes all the more important to use your head while driving and avoid becoming distracted or emotional on the road. Unfortunately, there are drivers who are taking advantage of the lessening of traffic due to COVID-19 and using this as an excuse to disobey traffic laws; for example, drivers have been cited as driving 100mph or more. Because of this, it becomes even more important to drive defensively.

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