What do you think of when you think of road rage? Even as recently as ten years ago, road rage wasn’t even a term that people used. Of course, the experience was there – getting angry at someone cutting you off in traffic, not using their turn signal, or driving behind you at night with their high-beam headlights on…and the list could go on and on. Road rage is the overtly angry over-reaction that occurs when you’re faced with any of these affronts, and can result in screaming obscenities, rude gestures, even physical violence and death.
The largest cause of road rage today is aggressive driving. By definition, aggressive driving is essentially committing unprovoked attacks on other drivers. A few examples of these attacks would be following too close behind a vehicle, failing to yield the right of way, changing speed or lane suddenly, passing on the shoulder or median, or intentionally braking very suddenly. It’s no wonder people get angry when they have to deal with all of this! Still, road rage is a serious problem that needs to be curbed.
Aggressive driving is responsible for 66% of all traffic fatalities. A seven-year study found that over 200 murders and 12,000 injuries have been caused by road rage. The most frightening statistic, though, is this one: 2% of all drivers admit to intentionally trying to drive another car off the road.
A few extreme examples of road rage would include:
None of us is immune to anger while driving, and certainly we all get a little bit angry when we experience a driver not following the rules of the road, but there are certain situations where road rage is more likely to occur. For instance, any situation in which you are experiencing excessive emotions such as losing a job, an argument with your spouse or significant other, or having to discipline your children while driving. You lose your patience and begin taking everything personally – including the actions of other drivers. This is how road rage begins, and it can get dangerous very quickly.
So what can you do to make sure that you’re not the one causing road rage? Well, actually, you can take many steps! First and most importantly – do not drive while distracted. With the prevalent use of cellphones and text messaging today, it’s become one of the biggest driving distractions that exist. Driving carefully and attentively will go a long way towards making you a safe driver that doesn’t cause road rage.
Think about how other drivers could perceive your driving. Do you have any habits that would be considered annoying or even aggressive, such as turning without using a turn signal, or turning into traffic, making the cars already in traffic have to hit their brakes to avoid you? Do you change lanes suddenly without signaling? Any number of annoying situations like this exist, and we’ve all experienced them. By making a concerted effort to be more attentive and thoughtful when driving, we can lessen or even eliminate these behaviors and the road rage they might cause.
How you handle situations like these when another driver is at fault says a lot about you. Avoiding road rage is about taking the high road, and being the bigger person who won’t allow emotion to enter into their driving activities. Controlling your reactions to others, and not responding out of negative emotion will eliminate road rage from your life. If someone does something aggressive or dangerous while driving, take a deep breath, slow down a bit, and just let it slide. You can’t control other drivers…but you can control how you respond to their driving.
If you find that it is you and your actions while driving that has caused road rage in another person, don’t react angrily even though you may feel defensive and embarrassed because of your error. Continue driving, avoid eye contact, mouth an apology, and let them pass you by and get back to driving. You will arrive safely at your destination, and so will the person you’ve angered.
Another great reason to avoid road rage is that in Arizona, road rage is a punishable criminal offense. If you are convicted of road rage, it will likely include multiple other charges as well. Those charges and their resulting penalties will depend on the circumstances surrounding the incident. As an example, if road rage causes someone to use a gun to shoot and kill another driver or passenger in the vehicle, they would have charges of homicide, aggravated assault, endangerment, manslaughter, or other serious offenses. These charges can result in life in prison, death penalty, as well as civil liability lawsuits by the victim or the victim’s family.
It’s better to simply try to prevent road rage from happening, period. You can accomplish this by obtaining the right mindset before you ever get into a vehicle. Know that you are going to drive carefully and calmly, and you’re going to exercise patience while driving, no matter what the circumstances. Pay attention to the road and the other drivers around you. Play soft music or an audiobook in your car – something that won’t distract you. Get on the road with enough time that you won’t have to worry about rushing. Do what you can to relax and stay calm while driving. And remember that while you can’t control how other people drive around you, you can control your own reactions (and over-reactions) to what you may perceive as a personal attack.
Stay calm, and keep on driving attentively! It’ll keep you and those around you safe, and everyone will get where they need to go without incident.