We’ve all heard of road rage, and possibly even thrown the phrase around in casual conversation when complaining about other drivers we’ve seen, but the reality is that most of what we call road rage is just aggressive driving. True road rage is much more extreme than just being cut off when trying to change lanes, and specifically refers to extreme aggression that causes traffic accidents or other roadside incidents.
Law enforcement officers and transportation safety officials would tell you that road rage occurs in part because being inside a car provides a sort of quasi-anonymity in which people think they are more empowered than they actually are.
Some examples of typical road rage behaviors include:
- Excessive speeding with aggressive acceleration
- Purposeful tailgating
- Speeding through toll booths at speeds in excess of 80 mph
- Driving down the median at high speeds
- Aggressively swerving between lanes
While some of these behaviors can occur in normal traffic, and others are similar to signs that the driver may be driving while intoxicated, the thing that makes the same event (speeding, for example) into road rage is the offending driver’s desire to frighten or harm others.
Observant drivers will learn to distinguish the difference in these patterns, and a defensive driving class may help make noticing such things easier, but in the interim, here are ten ways to react to road rage:
- Do not retaliate. Remember that the raging driver is not attacking you personally, but acting on an uncontrolled impulse.
- Avoid eye contact with other drivers who seem angry.
- Think before you react. As yourself if getting back at an offending driver is worth the risk.
- Always be polite, even if other drivers are not.
- Give the benefit of the doubt. Ask yourself if the offending driver might merely have made a mistake.
- Don’t lead them home. If you are being harassed by another driver, and they start to follow you, go to the nearest police station. Don’t go to your home or office.
- Breathe. Relax. And slow down. Don’t let other drivers’ aggression affect your driving.
- Give yourself time. You can avoid your own aggressive tendencies by giving yourself extra time to get to your destination, leaving room for weather or bad traffic.
- Never underestimate what other drivers might do.
- Stay in control. You can’t affect the way other drivers behave on the road. You can control the way you respond. Stay calm, and stay safe.
Road rage can be scary, even if you’re a mere bystander and not an active participant. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation on the road, stay in your car, and contact local authorities.