Road Rage or Aggressive Driving: How to Tell the Difference and Stay Safe on the Road
Following too closely, changing lanes like a NASCAR pro, honking horns, and throwing unfriendly gestures are common on most American roadways. Aggressive driving can happen to the best of us. But it’s important not to mistake aggressive driving for road rage.
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, road rage is far more serious than your run-of-the-mill aggressive driving. While both are dangerous, road rage is distinguished by the driver’s actions extending beyond mere obnoxious driving into actual assault, either by vehicle or weapon.
Road rage is where all rational thought and control go out the window and a person is overcome with anger. It typically goes to the point of taking things to an extreme level, resulting in bodily harm or even death.
But you don’t have to fall victim to road rage. By staying informed, aware, and alert, you can spot the signs of road rage, both in yourself and other drivers, and make choices that will help keep you and others safe on the road.
How to Recognize Road Rage in Your Own Driving
Every driver has times when they lose their temper behind the wheel, but at what point does that anger turn into road rage? One of the best ways to identify whether or not you might have road rage is to know and understand your own driving habits.
Do you often tailgate to pressure slow drivers to speed up? Do you catch yourself yelling at other drivers as if they can hear you? Do you exhibit physical signs of high stress and anger while driving, such as shaking, accelerated heartbeat, and rapid breathing?
While not all of these behaviors indicate a tendency to road rage, the physical symptoms combined with rude, risky driving habits indicate you may be at high risk of crossing the line from aggressive driving to road rage.
How to Prevent Feeling and Exhibiting Road Rage
If you find yourself prone to overreacting while driving, there are some things you can do to keep yourself from going over the edge. The best way to prevent feeling rage on the road is to avoid the types of driving situations that lead to frustration.
As much as possible, avoid reckless driving if you are upset or running behind. If you are already in a potentially angry state of mind, getting behind the wheel can become risky.
Make sure to always give yourself enough time to get from one place to another, so even if there is a hold-up along the way, you won’t feel panic or stress about potentially being late. It also helps to stay away from rush hour, if possible. If you can’t avoid high-traffic times, look for alternate routes that are less traveled.
Turn your car into a sanctuary. Listen to music you find soothing or tunes that always put you in a good mood. Use a car deodorizer with scents that have a calming effect, like lavender or chamomile.
How to Recognize Road Rage Being Exhibited by Another Driver
Part of keeping yourself safe on the road is being able to recognize road rage behaviors in other drivers. Be cautious of drivers who demonstrate reckless behavior that can endanger other motorists.
Drivers experiencing road rage may aggressively follow you or another driver, yell and curse, make obscene gestures, or even get out of the car to confront other drivers. Pay attention to other drivers’ reaction to what’s happening on the road and note any threatening behaviors.
If you notice a driver weaving in and out of heavy traffic, glaring at other drivers or making mean eye contact, or intentionally cutting people off, they might be on the verge of road rage, if not experiencing a full-blown episode. Another thing to watch out for is repeated honking at drivers who aren’t violating any rules of the road.
What to Do When you See Road Rage Happen
If you identify an aggressive driver who may be experiencing road rage, it’s important to know what to do to keep yourself safe. You don’t want to do anything that may make the situation worse.
They key to escaping a road rage incident unscathed is keeping a calm head. If you lose your temper as well, the situation will only escalate. Take a deep breath, remember that the person behaving aggressively is a human being, and focus on following the rules of the road.
Never react to a driver who is acting in a threatening manner or showing aggressive behavior. If you need to, slow down and let them pass. Don’t respond to rude gestures or yelling. Try to ignore the behavior and remove yourself from the path of the road rager.
If an angry driver is pursuing you or you notice them following another vehicle, don’t hesitate to call 911. Keeping the roads safe is every driver’s responsibility, and alerting law enforcement to a reckless driver is the responsible thing to do.
Each time you get behind the wheel, you trust that other drivers care as much about staying safe and obeying traffic laws as you do. Unfortunately, safety can get pushed aside by distractions and frustrations. When that happens, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you get hurt or your car suffers damage, especially if you’re not sure whether you have right type and amount of car insurance.
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