The term originated in Los Angeles, CA in the late 80’s when a rash of freeway shootings occurred on the Interstate 405, 110, and 10 freeways. “Road rage” encompasses rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver in an effort to intimidate or release frustration and can lead to altercations, assaults and collisions that result in serious physical injuries or even death.
Irritating driving situations and road rage can create a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape. Driving can have many annoyances anytime a person is behind the wheel because speed limits and other drivers making decisions different than your own. As stress rises, the likelihood of a person developing road rage escalates and if a person has road rage, their stress levels spike.
The Auto Channel recently released a survey of the top 5 cities with the highest reports of Road Rage which are; Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Boston, and Phoenix.
So, How Can You Prevent Road Rage?
While you can’t control the behavior of others – and let’s face it, some people are just jerks – you can do your best to prevent being a victim of road rage by following a few simple steps:
- Plan Ahead & Leave on time! If you’re not in a rush, you will better be able to be a passive driver with less concern about holding your place in the lead of the traffic.
- Get proper sleep. When you’re tired, it’s easier to become stressed and find yourself more irritable and less willing to accommodate other drivers on the road with you.
- Remember it’s not all about you. Sometimes, even when you’re the most courteous and law abiding driver on the road, you can’t please everyone. Also, everyone is not responsible for pleasing you by being as mindful of a driver as you are. It’s not about trying to understand why they keep slamming their breaks on in front of you or cutting you off unnecessarily. It is about getting as far away from that erratic driver as you can.
- Loosen up. Being a victim of road rage doesn’t always mean that someone is attacking you in some form, it could also mean you’re unknowingly attacking yourself. When you realize your gripping the wheel too tight, mashing your teeth, or thinking thoughts you’d never say in front of your loved ones you are putting yourself at risk in a different way – you’re risking your health. According to the American Psychological Association; road rage can lead to depression, heart attacks and strokes.
- Being cautious is being courteous. If you practice safe driving skills, avoid distracted driving and avoid any maneuvers that are going to make other drivers angry you can dodge road rage on your journey. For instance, don’t change lanes without signaling first and making sure you aren’t going to cut off another driver. If you are going to turn, make sure you have your turn signal on in plenty of time so the drivers around you know what you are doing. (Being cautious in inclement weather is even more important, so be sure to read our blog about driving in the rain also!)
- Avoid tailgating! No matter how frustrated you are with the slow driver in front of you who is eating your time up for breakfast, tailgating is the worst way to handle the situation. If you can’t find a way to get ahead of this nuisance safely then just get away from it instead. Realize that the time is lost regardless so putting some space between you and this annoying driver isn’t going to further damage your time clock, but continuing to tailgate this driver is going to further damage your attitude and health pointlessly.
- Don’t blow it! Laying on the horn is a distraction both for you and all the drivers who can hear it. While it may get your point across, it also creates unnecessary danger. Startling innocent drivers around you and angering your target is not the smart thing to do in an already stressful environment. And though it may give you a few seconds of relief it could be the final step in pushing that unstable driver over the edge of anger with you and create a very risky situation.
- Dodge obscene gestures and words to dodge road rage. We’ve all done it. We’ve all flipped off the guy who cut us off in traffic or cursed at the woman who used the on ramp to cut in the line of traffic. We all know they deserve it. But, did you know that these retaliations are the leading cause for road rage ending in violence? The best way to avoid a situation spiraling out of control is to stay in control of your own behavior.
- Just say no to eye contact. If you’ve made an error and a driver near you is doing all the things above we told you to avoid, don’t make eye contact with that driver. Stay seemingly oblivious and distance yourself from that driver – even if it means letting him or her take the lead. Also, if you really want to glare at the driver who made you angry – perhaps you feel you haven’t used an obscene gesture so you’re in the clear to at least glare – just don’t do it! It could very well be the one thing that driver needed as the match to his/her powder keg.
Unfortunately, there may be times when it will be impossible for you to avoid a confrontation with an enraged driver. This can be as simple as obscene gestures and horn blowing or it can escalate into something much more threatening.
If You Are in a Dangerous Road Rage Situation Take These Precautions:
- Distance yourself from the driver if possible. Try pulling over and letting a few cars get between you before re-entering traffic.
- If the driver follows you, stay in your car with your doors locked and your windows up. If necessary, circle a parking lot so that, if that driver is trying to approach your vehicle, you are not an easy target. Be sure to put on your hazard lights and circle slowly so that no pedestrians are endangered and call 9-1-1.
- If at all possible, drive to the nearest police station and call in advance to let them know you are on your way and what is happening.
- Note the color, year, make and model of the car as well as the license plate information or any noteworthy marks on their vehicle. Also try to get a good look at the driver so that you can give detailed information to the police if necessary.
- If you can safely video or photograph the vehicle and situation with your cell phone, do so after you have contacted the police.
- NEVER engage. You do not know if the enraged individual has a weapon or what kind of critical harm could come to you if you engage.
For your safety, we encourage you to do all that you can to avoid road rage. Following these tips can help you stay safe from this growing and dangerous activity that is plaguing the freeways and interstates of not just the U.S. but other countries as well. If you witness road rage but you are not directly involved you should still call 9-1-1 to protect yourself and others on the road. Stay safe on the road by using defensive driving techniques, avoid distractions, and avoiding road rage. Brush up on your driving skills by taking a safe driving course. To learn more about driving courses available to you, contact your auto insurance provider.