Road Rage and Aggressive Driving

How to stay safe on the road

If you are an aggressive driver you could lose more than your cool. According to a newspaper analysis of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, fatal crashes involving road rage are on a steady increase from 26 in 2004 to 247 in 2013.

What is road rage?

From hand gestures to physical disputes, "any display of aggression by a driver" is considered road rage. While only six percent of drivers will admit to road raging, 62 percent say they have been on the receiving end.

What causes road rage?

Imagine you've just had a rough day at the office. You are driving home, alone and just before you exit you get cut off by the car next to you. A little expression of your unchecked anger won't hurt anyone, right? You're safe.

Emil Coccaro, a professor and psychiatrist at the University of Chicago says when denial about the impact of road rage mixes with the power drivers feel, it creates a dangerous effect. Put another way, some drivers see vehicles as a safe zone where space, speed and anonymity mean small expressions of unchecked anger won't hurt anyone. Others easily misinterpret mistakes or poor driving as a personal and intentional attack on their being. Psychologists refer to this as Hostile Attribution Bias.

What are the signs of road rage?

While sixty-nine percent of Americans have reported being "flipped-off" while driving, expressions of road rage do not end there. Other telltale signs a driver is experiencing road rage include:

  • Sudden acceleration
  • Tailgating or blocking
  • Flashing lights
  • Throwing objects out of the window
  • Getting out the of the vehicle
  • Instigating a physical confrontation
  • Displaying a weapon

How to respond to road rage?

Whenever possible, avoid becoming a participant in road rage. If you identify a potential situation on the road around you, or directed at you, try not to react:

  • Avoid eye contact as it can easily be interpreted as the acceptance of an unspoken challenge.
  • Avoid unnecessary changes to your driving such as sudden braking, swerving, acceleration or stopping.
  • Do not make hand gestures, obscene or otherwise.
  • Do not get out of your car to address a confrontation.

If you feel unsafe, drive to the nearest police station or public place where you can get help or, when possible, have a passenger call 911.

How can I avoid road rage?

The 2014 Road Rage Report by Expedia.com® reported that texting, tailgating and multitasking are among the actions U.S. drivers find most infuriating when performed by others behind the wheel. Avoid them when driving by putting distractions out of reach and maintaining a safe traveling distance. If you are prone to road rage yourself or are feeling particularly agitated, give yourself a break. Instead of getting behind the wheel, consider taking public transportation, carpooling or traveling when traffic is least congested.

Driving is stressful enough. Follow these tips to help ensure your windshield time is as safe and stress-free as possible.