It may be the season to be jolly, but road rage can be a year round proposition and avoiding it should be at the top of your list. During the holidays, drivers are rushed, distracted, and short tempered – all contributing to the potential for a road rage incident.
Knowing how to reduce the risk of becoming the aggressor or a victim is a matter of keeping your cool and not engaging someone looking for a fight.
Road Rage 101
First, it’s important to designate the difference between aggressive driving and road rage, though the former can often lead to the latter. Also, aggressive driving is described as a traffic offense – while road rage is considered a criminal offense.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts it this way: road rage is when you or another driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”.
Pretty serious stuff. And, if someone is injured or worse as a result of this type of behavior, you’re looking at criminal charges and probable jail time.
Below are a few sobering statistics as compiled by the NHTSA and the Auto Vantage Auto Club regarding aggressive driving and road rage:
• 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage over a seven year period.
• 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.
• 50% of drivers who were the initial victims of aggressive behavior by another driver, including horn honking, rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding in the same manner rather than backing down, thereby escalating the situation.
With that much going on – and countless unreported incidents – no wonder road rage is an increasingly dangerous phenomenon.
How to Avoid Road Rage
While it may not always be possible to avoid a “road rager”, doing your part to stay clear of an aggravated driver or to avoid becoming one is vital to keeping safe or possibly out of jail.
1. Avoid being the cause. In other words, don’t aggravate other drivers by participating in activities known for upsetting the average motorist, such as driving below the speed limit in the fast lane, cutting another driver off, or tailgating when you can easily change lanes and get around them.
2. Don’t engage the other driver. It may sound simple, but if you sense you may have done something to agitate a driver, get out of his way and don’t make eye contact. Whatever you do, don’t stand your ground. Keep in mind, shouting, waving your fist or using offensive hand gestures will only provoke the individual.
3. Remain calm. If someone does something to get you upset, let them go. Refrain from chasing them down or flashing your lights. Remember, you don’t really know who you’re dealing with. Take a couple of deep breaths and move on.
4. Call 911. If your efforts to avoid an escalating confrontation fail and the angered motorist continues to pursue you, call 911 and/or drive to the nearest Police Station – with the assistance of the 911 operator. Do not stop and get out of your car.
Staying safe is far more important than showing the other driver who’s the boss.
Have you ever been the victim of road rage? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.