Did you know that road rage accounts for 56% of fatal crashes, and aggressive driving is a factor in 66% of lethal accidents? According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) and the AAA Foundation, these numbers should make everyone stop and think before they get behind the wheel of a car. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
What is Road Rage?
You've felt the irritation when someone cuts in front of you only to slow down or when the right lane will not let you merge onto the highway. There are rude drivers everywhere, and some drivers are not paying attention to their surroundings. Some people are such bad drivers that they cause driving anger in everyone around them on the road.
Road rage begins with an aggressive driver or angry behavior exhibited on the roads. It may not be noticeable at first, but it can quickly escalate into a dangerous situation if both drivers engage in reckless behavior like brake checking and trying to run the other off the road. This is especially dangerous if it happens at highway speeds and on crowded streets. This offensive driving needs to be avoided.
Where Does Road Rage Come From?
When wondering what the causes of road rage are, it may be impossible to find a root cause of the behavior. Here are some things that can trigger a road rage incident in anyone:
- Stress – Lives are more stressful now than ever. Too many people are trying to get places in a hurry. There is too much traffic on the roads, and there are a lot of distractions in today's cars. All those things add to stress in some drivers that can explode into a rage situation if someone gets in their way.
- Territorial – This might seem strange, but people have their own space, and if others don't respect it, they can become agitated. If you're driving and you've left a buffer zone with the car in front of you, having someone pull into your braking space can be irritating. This is not only inconsiderate; it's dangerous.
In addition, the impersonal nature of being on the highway with a lot of strangers in other cars makes other drivers seem insignificant. It's easier to lose patience with someone in a slow-moving car if you don't have to face them in the parking lot after pushing them into the breakdown lane. While there is never a clear-cut answer to why people get road rage, you must know how to stop it before it becomes deadly.
How to Avoid Road Rage While Driving
Avoiding road rage isn't as complicated as it might sound, but it will take some practice if you're one of those who get a little impatient with other drivers. When you know what the cause of road rage is, it can be easier to get less emotional about the situation.
Here are some tips:
Practice Defensive Driving
You can significantly reduce instances that trigger road rage when you're a proactive driver. While maintaining a safe following distance gives you room to brake should you need to, give yourself a little more buffer room for the inconsiderate driver who wants to shove their way in.
By using your signals well before your turn and watching for blind spots, you'll reduce some of the incidents that can give another driver a reason to be angry.
Stay Calm and Focused
Everyone is human, and that means everyone makes mistakes. Rather than immediately blaming the other driver for doing it on purpose, take a deep breath and consider other possibilities. The driver may be unfamiliar with the area or having a bad day. When you stay calm and focused, you reduce the chance of an aggressive reaction.
If another driver confronts you, do not engage with them. Do not make eye contact and ignore any of their gestures. If they do pull a weapon, you must avoid getting involved in their threats. Displaying a firearm is a serious criminal offense, so if that happens, get as much information as possible without putting yourself in danger and contact the authorities.
Generally, road rage incidents are limited to yelling, tailgating, honking, and other aggressive behavior, but these can be dangerous if you're traveling at a high rate of speed. You can slow down and find the nearest exit to escape the danger of another driver's driving rage.
Take Breaks if Needed
Long drives tire everyone, which can stress your patience with other drivers on the road. With the correct planning, you can map out your trip to include stops to decompress. The Interstate Highway System has many rest areas that allow you to stretch your legs, take a walk, eat a sandwich at a picnic table, or simply stare at the trees instead of the highway.
Even if you're not on a major highway, there are parks, parking lots, and other places to stop and stretch. A good long body stretch reduces muscle tension and increases serotonin levels while releasing endorphins. All of those things are fantastic stress reducers.
Getting irritated while driving happens to even the happiest person, and even the most polite person can have a bad driving day, so while you can't control other people's behavior, you can take ownership of yours. Following the tips above can help reduce road rage on the highways and keep yourself safe.