Dealing With Aggressive Drivers and Road Rage

It’s easy to find examples of aggressive driving. Most of us see it daily — a person tailgating, driving at excessive speeds, weaving in and out of lanes, making hand or facial gestures, or running stop signs and lights. Though less common, road rage is a growing problem. These two are not the same. Aggressive driving, which the federal government defines as a combination of actions that endanger other people or property on the road, is a traffic offense. In contrast, road rage — an assault with a vehicle or other dangerous weapon started by a road incident — is a crime.

Every year, there are over six million car accidents in the United States. It’s unknown how many aggressive drivers cause, but experts say the number is large, based on accident police reports. Some reports say aggressive drivers are a factor in over half of all accidents.

Knowing how to deal with aggressive drivers and road rage can increase your safety and prevent accidents. Here are tips.

Don’t Be An Aggressive Driver

Of course, avoid being an aggressive driver yourself. To stay calm:

• Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. Busy roads and time pressures can make you more frustrated, but by planning ahead, you should be able to reach your destination on time.

• Relax. If you sense problems coming, turn on relaxing music or look for other routes.

• Don’t drive when you are angry or upset. Limiting use of your horn can also help prevent incidents.

• Listen to traffic and weather reports so you will be aware of delays and hazards.

• Keep your car comfortable. This can help reduce your stress level. Using your air conditioner, getting a comfortable seat cover, and listening to enjoyable music or books on tape are ideas to make driving more enjoyable.

• Obey all traffic rules. Following at a safe distance, using turn signals, not speeding, not cutting off other drivers, and obeying other traffic rules will help prevent you from being an aggressive driver.

If You Are Near An Aggressive Driver

Being near an aggressive driver is another matter. If you see an aggressive driver or a possible road rage situation:

• Get out of the way. You may be tempted to speed up and challenge him or her, but this is not wise to do.

• Avoid eye contact and gestures. Eye contact can make an aggressive driver even more angry. Staying calm and ignoring gestures will help de-escalate the problem.

• Wear your seat belt. You should always wear your seat belt when driving. Wearing a seat belt when driving near an aggressive driver is especially vital because of the greater chance you’ll have to engage in a sudden driving maneuver.

• If you think you are being followed, don’t drive home. Instead, drive to a safe place like a police or fire station or other place where there are many people.

• Report the driver to the police. Make a note of the vehicle’s description, license number and the direction the vehicle was heading. If you use a cell phone to call, pull over to a safe place before calling.

Avoiding confrontation with an aggressive driver makes for a safer driving experience and helps avoid accidents.

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