Coined in the 1980s after a string of highway shootings in Los Angeles, California, the term “road rage” describes any kind of aggressive or angry behavior by a driver towards another driver on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines road rage as when a 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.
Common Aggressive Driving Behaviors
Road rage comes in different ways. Among them are yelling, intentional tailgating, honking to show annoyance, cutting off another vehicle on purpose, blocking another vehicle from changing lanes, confronting another driver, and bumping or ramming another vehicle intentionally.
Some behaviors can even have fatal consequences. Sixty-six percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving. Road rage was linked to 467 fatal car crashes in 2015, an increase of almost 500 percent in 20 years, as there was 80 road rage related crashes in 2006. Cases of road rage that involved firearms are also on the rise, with 620 incidents in 2016 from 247 in 2014.
A driver who is caught engaging in road rage with another driver can be charged with a criminal offense, which entails getting an attorney, going to court, paying legal fees, paying bail bonds, and possibly rendering jail time. Aside from this, engaging in aggressive driving behavior can also result in damage to one’s vehicle, physical harm to one’s self and passengers, and in the worst cases, death.
Preventing Road Rage
A driver knows how easy it is to be angry while driving, as there are a lot of triggering factors, such as heavy traffic, stress, other people driving too slow, and aggressive behaviors of other drivers, among others. With all these triggers in mind, a driver can take these preventive measures:
- Listening to soothing music, or your favorite playlist
- Keeping a good distance from other vehicles
- Avoiding prolonged eye contact with another driver or making obscene gestures at them
- Keeping in mind that the road must be shared and that nobody is perfect
Handling Road Rage
When you find yourself in the middle of a road rage, whether or not it is your fault, do your best to be level-headed and address the situation in a calm manner. You can diffuse the situation by waving at the other driver and mouthing that you’re sorry; then after that, giving them enough space to pass you. Keep in mind that engaging in a fight with another driver will cost you time and energy, and put your life in danger.
If a confrontation takes place, and you need to get out of the vehicle to talk to the driver, make sure that you pull over in a safe location, and you do not obstruct traffic. Before getting out or heading towards the other driver, take deep breaths to calm yourself down. Do not let emotions get in the way of your thoughts and actions, and remember that a fight with another driver over some traffic squabble is not worth risking your reputation, safety, and your life.
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