Avoiding Road Rage: 12 Ways You Can Escape Aggressive Driving

Road rage is an epidemic that has the potential to affect every driver on the road, whether you're an aggressor or victim. Aggressive driving can lead to death or injury, but it can often be avoided. Learn more about important road rage statistics and information and what you can do to avoid aggressive driving and becoming a victim of road rage.

Road Rage Statistics

Road rage can be dangerous, even deadly. There have been more than 1,000 deaths from road rage within the last decade, and fatal road rage accidents continue to increase significantly. Consider these statistics on road rage, including deaths, common behaviors, and factors that contribute to aggressive driving:

  • Since 2008, almost 1,500 people have been killed in crashes involving road rage and aggressive driving (NHTSA)
  • Fatal accidents involving road rage have increased nearly tenfold since 2004 (NHTSA)
  • In 2013, 247 fatal accidents indicated road rage or aggression as a contributing factor (NHTSA)
  • On average, at least 1,500 people are injured or killed every year in the United States due to aggressive driving AAA)
  • 60 percent of motorists believe unsafe driving is a personal threat to them and their families (NHTSA)
  • 75 percent of motorists believe it's very important to do something about unsafe driving (NHTSA)
  • 30 percent of drivers have felt that their personal safety was at risk while driving within the last month NHTSA)
  • Most aggressive drivers are between the ages of 18 to 26, but there are still many cases of perpetrators from 26 to 50 years old AAA)
  • Aggressive drivers are often young, poorly educated males. They may have criminal records, histories of violence, drug or alcohol problems and may be experiencing an emotional or professional setback AAA)
  • Aggressive drivers also include successful men and women who have no known histories of crime, drug or alcohol abuse, or violence AAA)
  • 62 percent of drivers who are considered unsafe report they have not been stopped by a police officer within the past year NHTSA)
  • 86 percent of drivers don't believe it's extremely dangerous to drive 10 miles per hour over the speed limit NHTSA)
  • 2 percent of aggressive drivers admit to trying to run other vehicles off of the road NHTSA)
  • Weapons have been used in more than 4,000 aggressive driving incidents, including firearms, knives, and clubs -- as well as vehicles AAA)
  • Thousands of mentally and emotionally disturbed drivers are on the roadways today. Motorists in every state have murdered or seriously injured other drivers for unimportant reasons, including stolen parking spaces, honking, and making rude gestures AAA)
  • Millions of motorists are armed with weapons including firearms and knives. There are more than 200 million firearms in the United States and many are carried by drivers AAA)
  • 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm NHTSA)

Road rage and aggressive driving behaviors include:

  • Following too closely
  • Driving at excessive speeds
  • Weaving through traffic
  • Cutting off other vehicles
  • Honking without cause
  • Running stop lights and signs
  • Errating braking
  • No turn signal
  • Inappropriate lane usage
  • Flashing headlights at slow drivers
  • Sporadic speed or sudden acceleration
  • Using a vehicle as a barrier
  • Gesturing or yelling at another driver
  • Chasing other vehicles
  • Getting out of a vehicle to threaten another driver
  • Intentionally hitting another vehicle or person
  • Driver confrontations, physical assault, and murder

Aggressive driving is a traffic violation, but escalated road rage is a criminal offense.

Factors that lead to road rage and aggressive driving include:

  • Running late
  • Traffic delays
  • Anonymity
  • Disregard for the law
  • Habitual or clinical behaviors
  • Disregard for others

How to Avoid Road Rage

While aggressive drivers are everywhere, the most dangerous road rage incidents happen when two or more drivers have aggressive responses to each other. Getting cut off in traffic can quickly escalate to further aggression if you choose to honk or gesture at another driver.

Even if you've been subjected to rude or aggressive driving behaviors, it's important that you don't respond in kind. Think twice before laying on your horn or making a rude gesture, and you can avoid provoking road rage.

Use these tips to slow down, calm down, and stay safe even with aggressive drivers on the road:

  • Practice polite driving habits: Avoid tailgating, cutting off other vehicles, speeding, weaving, leaving high beam headlights on, and erratic braking. Don't drive in the left lane slower than the rest of traffic. Merge politely, and always err on the side of being courteous. This is smart to do not just to avoid road rage, but to make driving easier and more pleasant for every motorist.
  • Slow down: Simply let aggressive drivers go around you and typically, they will quickly be on their way.
  • Get away from aggressive drivers: If you notice a driver with aggressive behavior, get some distance between you, whether you slow down and let them get ahead or change lanes so you're not right next to each other.
  • Don't make rude gestures or yell at other drivers: Remember, you're not the police, and it's not your job to remind others how to drive, even if they're doing a terrible job. Avoid making eye contact with an aggressive driver who is trying to pick a fight.
  • Use your horn sparingly: Horns should primarily be used in emergency situations. Tap your horn lightly if you need to get a driver's attention, and give drivers ahead of you at lights a few extra seconds of grace before honking to remind them to move through the intersection.
  • Call a road rage hotline: Many states now have aggressive driver hotlines that you can call to report aggressive drivers. Instead of confronting an aggressive driver, simply let the authorities know about their actions and how they can be found.
  • Avoid making driving a competitive sport: You're not a race car driver -- you don't have to win on the road. In fact, winning as a regular driver is simply getting home safe. Getting worked up over a vehicle that's cut you off or gotten in your way somehow isn't worth it. Remember: getting home safely is more important than teaching another driver a lesson.
  • Apologize if you've done something wrong: If you've accidentally cut off another driver, braked too fast, or made some other mistake that could be offensive, simply smile and wave as an apology. This will disarm and calm most drivers.
  • Don't drive under distress: Avoid driving if you're angry, upset, or overtired.
  • Adjust your driving attitude: Give other drivers the benefit of the doubt. Many mistakes are unintentional and not meant as a personal offense. Consider whether responding aggressively is worth being injured or killed.
  • Have reasonable expectations about your travel time: Know when you'll be driving in traffic, give yourself plenty of time, and don't set unreasonable expectations for how fast you'll get to your destination.
  • Call 911 if you're under attack: If an aggressive driver attacks you, call 911 right away and stay on the phone with the dispatcher. Consider driving to the nearest police station, convenience store, or other public location with witnesses. Do not drive home.

Photo by Flickr user colelocurto

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