You’re driving along minding your own business when suddenly some aggressive jerk cuts you off without even signaling or checking his blind spot -- can you say road rage? Yikes. You’re muttering, “What an idiot!”
Yep, there are plenty of idiots out there. They speed up to beat red lights, they tailgate you, they flash their lights because they think you’re driving too slowly, they cut you off without so much as a turn signal to warn you, they honk their horns, and they regularly provide other drivers with the one-finger salute -- how rude. You're just trying to make your morning commute in peace!
Your first response might be to whip out your phone and tweet angrily about it. You might even be tempted to speed up to teach that idiot driver a lesson. Please don’t! People have been run off the road, found themselves in car accidents, and have even been shot by enraged motorists over such trivial circumstances... it’s not worth it! Not to mention a lot of these behaviors mean you're engaging in distracted driving, which is also super dangerous.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of road rage is "angry and aggressive behavior by a driver who is upset by how another person is driving." According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the majority of aggressive drivers are “young, poorly educated men between 16 and 26.” The AAA Foundation also notes that if these vehicle operators are suffering from IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder) then these aggressive drivers could be anyone, regardless of income or education.
While “aggressive driving” is just a traffic offense, “road rage” is a driver-blamed criminal offense. You don’t want to wind up doing serious jail time for vehicular homicide.
Here are some tips for avoiding road rage and turning into an aggressive driving monster:
- Most road ragers are usually dealing with some sort of emotional crisis, so if your girlfriend or boyfriend just broke up with you, be extra careful when you get behind the wheel. Give yourself some time to defuse before getting behind the wheel.
- Expect other drivers to make mistakes and remember that everyone is human. You’ll be less freaked out when they do.
- Be predictable. Always check your blind spots and use your signals when you change lanes so you don’t turn anyone else into a road rager. Checking all the views around your vehicle and being a considerate driver should help with preventing road rage.
- If it’s rush hour or you find yourself in a traffic jam due to an accident, listen to music and just come to terms with the fact that you're going to run late. It's okay. No need to be inconsiderate to drivers around you by making obscene gestures at people trying to merge into your lane.
Finally, here’s what the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation and Safety Agency) says you can do if you find yourself a victim of a road rage incident:
- Avoid mad motorists, if at all possible. Ain't nobody got time for that negative energy.
- Don't feed the trolls. If you try to speed up to pass an angry driver or prevent them from merging in your lane, it only makes things worse and can put your life in danger! Let them pass and leave plenty of room between you and that grump.
- If an angry driver gives you the finger or makes another obscene gesture, be a grown-up and ignore it. Such gestures have gotten people physically attacked many times. Um, no thanks.
- Honk that horn only if you really have to for defensive driving purposes... like if a driver is merging into your lane and doesn't appear to see you. Don't use your horn if you're simply annoyed because you're sitting in traffic. We're all in the same boat ... er, car. Honking your horn is meant to be used to alert other drivers, not to scold them. Take the high road, and engage in polite driving.
- Don't be afraid to report aggressive drivers to the authorities. You could save a life and prevent road rage from causing a bigger issue.
- If you see a driver with road rage get into an auto accident, be cautious about approaching the vehicle and driver. Stop a safe distance away from them, then call the police to report the incident. Aggressive drivers can be unpredictable and it's important to keep yourself safe
- If an aggressive driver starts following you, don't go home. Call the police and drive to the nearest police station. You don't want to become the victim of a road rage attack.
If you keep those tips from NHTSA and Aceable in mind, you'll help keep yourself and others safe on the road. This is definitely information you want to have locked away after you leave the DMV with your new license! A simple rule of thumb is to just be a courteous driver at all times. Now let's all be cool, okay?