We’ve all had those moments behind the wheel; maybe it’s after a long day of work or perhaps it happens after sitting in traffic for too long. But at some point, we have all felt aggravated by other drivers on the road. We’ve wanted to react aggressively, and we may have actually lashed out.
Even though the term “road rage” is relatively new, incidents of aggressive driving and anger behind the wheel have been around almost as long as the automobile itself.
And, while the vehicles we drive have become safer and the roads we drive on have been greatly improved, the way we behave on those roads has become more dangerous.
In fact, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 80% of drivers admit to having feelings of anger and exhibiting some sort of aggressive behavior behind the wheel in a single year.
When traffic and bad tempers collide, the situation can escalate quickly. In too many cases, they can turn dangerous — and even deadly.
Five Surprising Facts About Road Rage
While most of us like to think that we can handle our tempers in difficult situations, the statistics tell a different story. Even if you’re not the aggressor, it’s possible to become a victim of someone else’s irrational behavior.
Understanding how simple it is to trigger road rage is a good way to prevent it, just as understanding how dangerous it can become is a good way to help keep your emotions and reactions in check. Consider these five facts:
1. You might be practicing road rage and not even know it.
We tend to think of road rage as extremely aggressive forms of behavior, but some of the more subtle actions you take while driving also qualifies as aggressive driving.
Excessive speeding, running red lights, tailgating, refusing to let others into “your” lane in traffic, or using obscene gestures are forms of aggressive behavior that can throw fuel on a fire and escalate the situation quickly.
2. Age and gender factor into road rage.
According to the AAA study, male drivers between the ages of 19 and 39 are more likely to become aggressive behind the wheel. Not only do they react more quickly and more frequently, but their actions are much more aggressive. They are more than three times as likely as female drivers to get out of their vehicle and confront another driver or ram another vehicle on purpose.
3. Road rage is costlier than you might realize.
The consequences of road rage last much longer than the incident itself. In addition to the damage to your car or to another person’s car, and physical harm to yourself or to another person, there can be costly legal repercussions.
If the police are involved, and you’re found guilty, there will be fines and possibly even jail time. Once that happens, expect your insurance premiums to go up.
4. Aggressive driving can lead to death.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94% of traffic deaths are caused by driver behavior, and 66% are directly linked to road rage. Even more shockingly, aggressive driving incidents involving a firearm more than doubled between 2014 and 2016, creating more danger for everyone on the road.
5. Women and men display different types of aggressive driving behavior.
While men are quicker to honk, speed, cut off other drivers, and even chase cars, women have their own way of reacting in traffic. Research shows that women are more likely to swear, make a gesture, or intentionally tailgate someone.
How to Keep Road Rage From Affecting You
While you can’t eliminate traffic or control the actions of drivers around you, there are certain things you can do to better manage the situation. Planning in advance on how to handle challenging traffic conditions allows you to be proactive rather than reactive when they occur.
Implementing The Smith5Keys® principles into daily driving behavior is your first step in keeping yourself and others in the vehicle safer; it also helps minimize the risk of road rage.
By creating a cushion of space around your vehicle, you’re providing other cars with the room they need to maneuver, and you’re also providing yourself with an out if you need to move away from an escalating situation.
Watching what is going on around you and keeping your eyes active will alert you to dangerous behavior being exhibited by other drivers, and can tip you off to situations you might want to avoid.
When you’re better informed, you can choose to move to another lane, adjust your speed or take any other actions that will prevent you from getting involved in an unpleasant traffic situation.
To resist road rage, check your own driving habits and practices. The first thing to do allow enough travel time. Eliminate distracted driving practices, such as using a phone or not paying attention to the road because you’re too focused on anything other than driving.
Be mindful of following laws such as using your turn signal to change lanes, not driving with your high beams on, and be sure to check your blind spots before changing lanes to make sure you’re not cutting anyone off.
If you do find yourself in a situation where another driver is acting aggressively toward you, resist the urge to retaliate. Don’t take it personally, and avoid making eye contact with other drivers.
If you’re concerned for your safety, report the situation to the police immediately; some areas have a special phone number specifically for reporting aggressive driving, so program that number into your phone if it’s applicable.
Be ready to provide a description of the vehicle, the license plate number, where you are (look for a mile marker or street sign so you can be specific), and what direction the vehicle is traveling.
Above all, keep the bigger picture in mind when facing road rage situations. Your ultimate goal is for you and your passengers to return home safely — every time.