Road rage can put drivers at risk for accidents and injuries. It is hard to say exactly why road rage is so common but some factors may be heavy traffic on daily commutes, an expectation that our day move along quickly, and stress from other parts of our lives seeping into our drive. Some drivers are more prone to road rage than others and see traffic and other drivers as an obstacle to overcome.

Road Rage Defined

Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior displayed by a driver. Common behaviors include rude gestures, verbal insults, cursing, yelling, intentionally driving in an unsafe or threatening manner, or making threats. In some cases road rage escalates into actual altercations, tailgating, assaults, and collisions that result in injuries and even accidental deaths or murder. Road rage is an extreme version of aggressive driving.

The term actually originated in the United States in 1987–1988 by newscasters who were covering a story about a rash of freeway shootings in Los Angeles, California.

Aggressive Driving Defined

Aggressive driving occurs when a driver has two or more moving violations that are deemed likely to endanger other persons or property, or a single intentional violation that requires a defensive reaction by another driver.

Common Actions Caused by Road Rage and Aggressive Driving

  • Thinking condemning or violent thoughts toward another driver.
  • Yelling or otherwise verbally expressing condemnation of other drivers.
  • Not obeying traffic safety signs and regulations because you feel you are above following the rules or don’t agree with them.
  • Driving in a risky manner including:
    • Following other vehicles too closely.
    • Speeding excessively.
    • Flashing headlights to express discontent.
    • Honking your horn without real safety concern.
    • Weaving in and out of traffic.
    • Cutting between vehicles to change lanes.
    • Flashing headlights excessively at oncoming traffic.
    • Braking sharply to stop drivers from tailgating.
    • Passing traffic and then slowing in front of them.

Top 10 Tips to Avoid Aggressive Driving and Road Rage

  1. If possible, allow more time than you need to reach your destination, listen to mellow music, and make sure that your seat and clothing are comfortable. Surrender to the fact that you cannot control other people’s actions but you can control your reactions.
  2. Be the bigger person; always remain calm and polite, even if the other driver is not. Consciously avoid conflict; if another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move on or out of their way.
  3. Be sure that you have enough room when entering traffic or changing lanes.
  4. Signal when turning or changing lanes.
  5. Don’t tailgate; keep a safe following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
  6. Resist the urge to make aggressive hand gestures to other drivers who offend you with their driving.
  7. Learn to control your anger. Remember it takes two to start a fight.
  8. Avoid intense eye contact with the other driver.
  9. Call for help if the situation is escalating. It is better to call the police and keep moving than to pull over to the side of the road.
  10. Empathize with the other driver. They may be in an emergency situation, confused, or having a bad day.

Report Aggressive Driving

The Washington State Patrol website has information about how to report aggressive driving to the police.

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