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Tips to Avoid and Prevent Road Rage

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The country's streets and freeways are getting more crowded all the time. Inevitably, crowded streets are more dangerous than empty ones - the more cars and drivers, the more likely drivers are to make mistakes. For more and more drivers, it seems the solution to this congestion and frustration is to get mad, and try to get even.

Road rage may have a catchy name, but it is a serious, extremely unpleasant fact of life. It is dangerous, and will only increase as long as drivers feed each other's anger and desire to teach others a lesson. The topic is discussed daily around the office, at home, in police stations and in the media, but it is subjective and probably impossible to measure accurately. What one person may consider an act of road rage may seem to another just a defensive driving move.

Driver behavior that could fall under the "road rage" category ranges over a broad spectrum, from mumbled or shouted insults and hand gestures to intimidating driving, throwing objects or, at its most extreme, using weapons or using cars as weapons.

Whether or not experts can tell us exactly how many incidents occur each year, we all know that aggressive drivers are out there - and that they are frightening and dangerous. Those who study the issue (many of whom are mental health professionals), attribute the phenomenon to factors such as:

  • People feel anonymous inside their cars, and do things they would never do in a roomful of people they know
  • Experiencing the power of driving one's car can be a way to blow off steam
  • The assorted stresses and problems of day-to-day life magnify situations on the road
  • Driving, in itself, is at times a stressful and dangerous activity
  • Partly due to the ease with which people can obtain a U.S. drivers license, there are many people on the road who may be unfamiliar with driving customs - and what is merely a lack of understanding can appear rude

No matter what the cause, aggressive, inconsiderate behavior on the road can have serious consequences. At the very least, the stress of dealing with road rage takes a toll on us and lessens our enjoyment of our cars, streets and communities. At the worst, people can be injured or killed, property can be damaged and offenders can pay a steep price in the form of criminal records, fines and jail time, restitution to victims, loss of license and higher insurance rates.

As pervasive as the problem is, its solution couldn't be simpler. Drivers could simply choose to be more respectful of others on the road.

Tips for aggressive drivers

  • Know how much a ticket costs? While driving, think about the amount (say, $275) and think about what you could do with that money if you didn't have to pay a ticket.
  • Think about how the people you care most about would feel if they witnessed your aggressive behavior. And think about how you would feel if someone treated them the way you may be treating others on the road.
  • Lead by example. Drive the way you want other people to drive. This may mean having to swallow your pride or back away from aggression, but it beats an accident.
  • If you find yourself annoyed or angry in the car, force yourself to think about something positive. What are you most thankful for? What makes you most happy?
  • Try listening to a classical or jazz station. It can be very calming.
  • Resist the urge to teach other drivers a lesson. Remind yourself that they'll learn it eventually without your help.
  • Just as an exercise, let someone in ahead of you in traffic. Do it a few times. Spread the politeness.


How to avoid conflict and make our roads safer

  • Be a polite driver. Always use your blinkers, pull all the way into turn lanes when you're making a turn, and don't follow too closely.
  • When someone is driving behind you and wants to go faster than you're going, pull over.
  • If you make a mistake, give an "I'm sorry wave" - you may have to do it more than once to be sure you're seen - to acknowledge an error.
  • Don't challenge aggressive drivers. Avoid them at all costs. Take an unintended turn or highway exit to get away from someone who may be targeting you.
  • Resist the urge to teach other drivers a lesson. Remind yourself that they'll learn it eventually without your help.

Report behavior that is alarming or seems extremely dangerous. You can't be sure the highway patrol or local law enforcement will be able to respond, but it's possible. And it could possibly save lives and property.

By Michelle Deininger, InsWeb


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