Road rage: you may hear about it regularly, especially if you live in a big city where heavy traffic leads to substantial emotional struggles on the road. However, understanding what constitutes road rage can be difficult. If a driver gives an angry gesture in heavy traffic, does it count as road rage? What about a driver who engages in aggressive driving behaviors because he is rushing, not acting out of anger?
Road Rage: Defined
Road rage includes uncontrolled anger on the road, usually provoked by another driver’s actions. Road rage includes many dangerous expressions of this anger, placing everyone else on the road, including drivers and passengers, in danger.
What Causes Road Rage?
Several things can provoke road rage. Sometimes, it occurs due to frustration on the road itself: slow traffic, an accident bringing traffic to a standstill, or hazards that make it difficult for the individual to pass safely. In other cases, the actions of another driver may lead to road rage: a driver behaving irresponsibly or engaging in clearly dangerous behaviors, for example, or ignoring the rules of the road and traveling well below the speed limit.In other cases, however, road rage may result from internal emotions caused by unrelated circumstances. Someone already having a bad day or in a bad mood for another reason may struggle to react appropriately in cases where someone else triggers their anger. For example, drivers running late to work may be more frustrated with other drivers’ actions than drivers who do not have this source of stress.
You cannot predict what will cause road rage in another driver. However, here’s how you can protect yourself and avoid a raging driver.
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Common Types of Road Rage
Road rage takes many forms, depending on the severity of the raging driver’s response and the circumstances that lead to the anger.
Clear Expressions of Anger
Some raging drivers engage in behaviors that clearly express their anger, but that may not put others around them in danger. Drivers may yell, make angry gestures, or honk to express their rage and frustration on the road. Those angry gestures may prove distracting or even cause other drivers anxiety, but they rarely pose an actual danger.
A raging driver who drives too close to another vehicle engages in tailgating. Often, drivers choose to tailgate a driver that they feel travels below the speed limit. Drivers can get angry about the slow progression of the other vehicle, feeling that the other driver’s slow behaviors make it more difficult for them to get to their destinations promptly. Tailgating often does little to speed up traffic. Many drivers slow down when they notice another driver tailgating them to reduce the risk of a collision or reduce that collision’s severity.
Dangerous Driving Behaviors Linked to Anger on the Road
Many drivers choose to engage in aggressive, angry behaviors on the road to express their anger at another driver. These aggressive behaviors can substantially increase the risk of collision and may cause substantial injury. Often, angry drivers have less control over their vehicles. While anger can improve overall reaction times, the anger response may substantially decrease reasoning skills and decision-making, causing the angry driver to put himself and others around him in significant danger.
Dangerous behaviors may include deliberately cutting off another vehicle, especially when the driver engaged in potentially dangerous behavior or blocked another driver from changing lanes or turning.
Road rage can increase as a driver waits for a traffic jam to end or a driver to get out of the way. Many drivers note their increasing frustration the longer they sit and wait for traffic to clear, especially if they notice other drivers engaging in dangerous or frustrating behaviors. Once traffic finally clears and those drivers can move again, they may choose to speed up quickly to recover some of that lost time. Unfortunately, speeding may not save the driver much time and can substantially increase the risk of an accident and the damage caused by such an accident.
Deliberately Ramming Another Vehicle
When road rage escalates excessively, it can turn into an active attempt to harm the other party, including ramming another vehicle. Raging drivers, especially those in larger vehicles, attempt to cause a collision directly or force another vehicle off the road. These dangerous behaviors can lead to substantial injuries for both the raging driver and passengers in the other vehicle.
Confronting Another Driver Outside the Vehicle
Raging drivers may be out of control to the point that they try to follow another driver to their destination and get out of the vehicle to confront them. Often, these road rage encounters end in violence, which varies depending on the weapons and tools available to the raging driver and whether the other driver gets out of the vehicle; however, these confrontations frequently result in substantial injury.
Avoiding Road Rage
Avoiding road rage can prove difficult. Sometimes, you cannot predict what will set another driver off or why a driver becomes angry with you. Furthermore, a driver may actually get angry with something else entirely, then take that anger out on you, especially in heavy traffic or under circumstances that trigger extreme road rage.
However, you can take several actions to help reduce road rage or reduce the odds that you will end up victimized by a raging driver.
Always behave politely on the road.
Some drivers deliberately drive as though they own the road. They pull out in front of others, swerve while engaging in other activities instead of focusing on the road, and generally ignore the drivers around them, rather than treating them as distinct individuals who need assistance and compassion. These drivers can quickly trigger road rage.
Other drivers, however, behave politely. They allow adequate room for another vehicle to change lanes or merge into traffic. They allow other drivers to turn when they need to. They respect the road rules, including speed limits and traffic signals, and behave appropriately when driving. These drivers are generally less likely to trigger road rage in others.
Adhere to the rules of the road whenever possible.
Simply adhering to the rules of the road, from following speed limits to respecting traffic lights and signs, goes a long way toward preventing other drivers from getting angry with you.
Adhering to the road rules means respecting the right of way: not just allowing other drivers to proceed when they have the right of way, but also going through an intersection or light when you have the right of way to avoid slowing down the flow of traffic. It also means staying out of the left-hand lane if you prefer to remain directly at or very near the speed limit.
Avoid angry gestures, honking, or swearing of your own.
When you get angry, your anger can trigger someone else to respond with anger, even if you keep your complaints and frustration confined to your vehicle. Other drivers who see you respond with rude gestures or rude language may react angrily themselves, which increases the odds of a road rage incident.
Consider carefully before using your horn. Generally, a horn warns another driver that danger approaches or that the driver needs to react. If you lay on your horn out of anger after a driver does something irresponsible or dangerous, it could increase that driver’s adrenaline and anger response.
Stay away from aggressive drivers when possible.
Sometimes, it is difficult to stay away from an aggressive driver, especially one already feeling anger toward you. However, try to avoid aggressive drivers or get away from them as quickly as possible. You may need to slow down to get away from a driver behaving aggressively. In some cases, you may need to pull off the road or take a different route to your destination to keep yourself safe from a potentially raging driver.
Watch carefully for raging drivers that may follow you.
Raging drivers engage in extreme violence when they follow their victims off the road. Sometimes, you may notice a raging driver following you or gesturing for you to pull over.
Do not head for a secluded location, including your neighborhood. Do not pull into a parking garage or other space where you might struggle to find other people. Instead, find a public location. If you can do so safely, consider calling the police to report the behavior of the raging driver and ask for assistance.
If a raging driver follows you, do not get out of your car or roll down your window and engage with the driver. Remaining in your vehicle provides you with a level of safety and a better escape route than trying to get out of your car to continue the confrontation. Furthermore, avoid statements that could antagonize the raging driver.
Give yourself plenty of travel time when on the road.
Drivers under pressure often behave more aggressively, in general, than other drivers. Frequently, they engage in more reckless behavior: cutting other drivers off, for example, or speeding. Leaving yourself plenty of travel time not only decreases the risk you suffer from road rage yourself it can also prevent you from accidentally causing another driver to rage.
What Should You Do After a Road Rage Incident?
If you observe minor episodes of road rage, such as a driver cursing or using angry hand gestures toward another driver, you may want to ignore it. You might not have the capacity to do anything about that rage, and attempting to get in the middle could lead to more serious injuries for everyone involved.
On the other hand, if you get involved in a severe road rage incident, you may need to take steps to prepare yourself.
First, call 911 immediately if you observe a driver behaving very recklessly or aggressively. Police can arrive at the scene and end the danger, helping to keep both you and everyone else on the road safe.
Do not attempt to handle a raging driver yourself. While you can apologize for any event taken out of context—accidentally pulling out in front of another driver, for example—you may benefit from backing away and not engaging the angry driver.
If the driver caused you injury or damage to your vehicle due to road rage, collect evidence, including photos of the accident scene.
Finally, if the other driver injured you because of the road rage incident, you may have the right to file an injury claim. A car accident lawyer can help you understand the compensation you deserve and how to file an injury claim. In addition, a lawyer can help you protect your right to compensation when dealing with the insurance company.