Road Rage Is on the Rise: What That Means for Your Future Road Trips

Summer is here and that means it’s vacation time. This year, a lot of people are opting to make their vacay a road trip. According to an Aceable study, 60% of people polled say they have upcoming long-distance travel plans, and 87% of those people said they planned to drive to and from their destination.

Road Rage Is Up

But road trips aren’t all fun playlists and stopping to see the world’s biggest ball of yarn. At the best of times, driving all day can be a stressful and exhausting experience. But these days there’s another thing to worry about: road rage.

Whether tempers are just shorter post-lockdown or the general state of the world is making people see red, road rage is on the rise.

According to an Aceable survey, 68% of people said they have experienced an increase in road rage from others in 2022 and 62% said they have experienced an increase in road rage from themselves in 2022.

How can you keep yourself and your passengers safe in this ragey world? Let’s talk about it!

Preventing Road Rage from Others

You can’t control other people. But there are some common-sense things you can do to lessen the chances that you’ll be the target of another driver’s temper tantrum.

Drive Defensively

The number one way to avoid making other drivers mad is to drive defensively. Defensive driving means anticipating how other vehicles are moving through traffic and avoiding any potential problems.

It starts with staying alert and aware of all the cars around you — something that can be tough to do when you’ve been driving for hours. Make sure you’re taking frequent enough breaks and, if possible, switching drivers to keep yourself fresh.

Practicing defensive driving means:

  • Allowing other vehicles to pass and change lanes in front of you

  • Ensuring other drivers plan to yield to you when you have the right-of-way before you proceed

  • Obeying the speed limit, but moving with traffic as much as possible

  • Yielding right-of-way generously

  • Making sure intersections are clear before proceeding, even if you have a green light

  • Never assuming another driver will let you over or yield to you, even if they should

  • Leaving plenty of following distance

  • Scanning for hazards and erratic vehicle movements ahead

  • Being aware of where other vehicles are relative to yours, in case you need to make a quick evasive maneuver

Take the High Road

Look, some people are just bad drivers. It can be easy to get frustrated if someone cuts you off or fails to yield, especially when you’ve been behind the wheel all day. But to keep the potential for road rage to a minimum, it’s in your best interest to be the bigger person when someone is acting like a jerk.

Resist the urge to flip the bird or honk at people, even if they deserve it. Instead, just keep your eyes on the road and do what you can to stay away from people driving badly.

Be Generous

Sometimes just reframing your thinking can change a lot about a situation. Instead of thinking, “Arg, this person cut in front of me and I already let someone in! Learn to zipper, ya goofballs!” Think, “Wow, this person sure is in a hurry. I’m glad I can let them in in front of me so they can get to their very important appointment faster.”

Is that person actually late for the biggest job interview of their life? No, probably not. But giving people the benefit of the doubt will make you feel better about what is happening. After all, that person is going to cut in front of you either way. You might as well try and feel okay about it. Which leads us to our next topic: how you can keep yourself from falling into the road rage trap.

Preventing Road Rage in Yourself

Sometimes, we all just see red. Maybe you’ve had a bad day and this knucklehead not letting you change lanes is the last straw. Maybe everyone is driving like they’ve got their eyes closed today. You might feel yourself getting frustrated, driving faster, yelling, making rude gestures. It’s understandable, but it’s not a safe situation.

Angry drivers take more risks, and on a road trip especially, you don’t want to ruin your fun trip with a meltdown (or a collision!). Here are some ways you can help yourself be a calmer driver.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Feeling stressed is a major trigger for road rage. According to the Washington Post, road rage often stems from our fight or flight response getting activated, which leads us to respond irrationally to bad drivers around us.

Set yourself up for success by giving yourself a calm driving environment. That can include:

  • Leaving plenty of time to get where you’re going, so you don’t feel stressed about being late

  • Having the directions for where you’re going already available, and ideally, a passenger who can help you navigate

  • Minimizing distractions in the car — searching for a dropped phone, scrambling with the music controls, or spilling food or drinks all cause drivers stress

  • If you know that you’re feeling upset or stressed about something, take a minute to calm down before you start driving.

Take Breaks

On a road trip, it’s really important for the driver to take plenty of breaks. It’s challenging for your brain to focus on driving for long periods of time, and when you’re tired, you’re more likely to get frustrated and angry.

We all know that person who is obsessed with “making good time,” but taking breaks is a necessary part of being safe on a road trip. Stop, have a snack or drink, stretch, rest your eyes. All of this will help you be more emotionally resilient when presented with other drivers’ aggressive behavior.

Have Fun!

Most of all, remember that you’re taking a road trip to have fun! When you’re on a road trip, the journey is part of the vacation. Let yourself get into vacation mode and have a good time. 

Enjoy hanging out with your passengers, listening to music or podcasts, stopping for silly side trips, and playing road trip games (without losing focus on the road, of course). Even in today’s angry world, it’s possible to have a great time on a road trip.

Check out these other tips for a fun and safe journey. Happy driving!

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Audrey Ference