How can I avoid becoming a victim of road rage when I’m the one who drives the speed limit and some people get impatient with me?
I was quite discouraged to read the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety report stating that nearly 80% of drivers expressed some anger or aggression on the road this past year; and 7% of U.S. drivers engaged in some extreme form of anger which we know as “road rage.” This term refers to drivers who confront other drivers or ram their vehicles into other vehicles purposely or even try to run them off the road.
Surprisingly, the AAA report found that drivers in the Northeast were more like to yell, honk, and gesture angrily at other drivers than drivers in other parts of the country. In fact, Northeast drivers were 30% more likely to inappropriately gesture than drivers living elsewhere. In other studies, the cities with the most aggressive drivers are Miami, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. It is easy to understand that cities with their dense populations, traffic congestion, cultural diversity and various age groups would have the most aggressive drivers. But this also happens in local cities and towns every day.
Other studies found the road rage problem to be even more serious than screaming, swearing or gesturing. They found:
• 1 out of every 2 drivers who are the recipient of an aggressive behavior while they are behind the wheel will respond the same way.
• Over a 7-year study period, there were over 200 murders associated directly to road rage. 37% of the aggressive driving incidents involved at least one firearm.
• More than 12,000 preventable injuries have occurred because of road rage incidents.
• 2% of those who have someone driving around them aggressively have admitted to trying to run that vehicle off of the road.
Most often, experts believe road rage is based on people who have problems in other areas of their lives and the anger or frustration manifests itself while driving. In most cases, the victims of road rage either did nothing wrong or something very minor occurred that would not annoy the average driver. According to Lloyd Albert, Senior V.P. of Government Affairs for AAA, “Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”
If you drive too slowly, or perhaps just drive the speed limit, you may find there is an impatient person behind you that will purposely tailgate. If you stop short, or even just stop at a red light or stop sign, you run the risk of being rammed from behind. Because of the stress of daily lives, most people in the AAA study believe that aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than it was even three years ago; and 90% felt that aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their own personal safety. It is a simple problem to understand—more traffic, more stress, less time to get somewhere or do what we need to do—more road rage.
While I dislike stereotyping, studies show male and younger drivers 18-39 were the most likely to engage in aggressive behavior, particularly males 16-19. Also, male drivers are more than three times more likely to get out of their vehicles and confront another driver or ram another vehicle than a female driver. The more aggressive drivers are also more likely to run through a red light, speed or cut off other vehicles on purpose. Others who exhibit road rage are often victims of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem. They are “acting out” while driving.
Now that we understand the scope and cause of the problem, there are ways to avoid being a road rage victim by doing the following:
• Don’t intentionally brake or slow down, forcing the person behind you to swerve, change direction or suddenly change their speed and have to brake.
• Be tolerant, patient and even forgiving of a stranger who may be having a bad day. Don’t take anything personally. It’s not about you or even your driving skills in most cases.
• Avoid making eye contact with an aggressive driver.
• Don’t make any rude gestures.
• Maintain the proper amount of distance between your vehicle and the next.
• Don’t block someone from being able to change lanes.
• Do not change lanes without signaling.
• Do not keep your high beams on when passing another driver.
• Distracted drivers (talking on the cell phone or reading texts) and slowing down, swerving, etc. is a cause for others to become angry with those drivers. As I often write about the dangers of distracted driving, this is another reason to drive without distraction—as to not annoy other drivers who may become enraged.
• Always stay in your vehicle with the windows up. Contact the police if you feel your safety is being threatened. Don’t argue with or provoke another driver who may have wronged you.
Understand that none of us are perfect; we can all make mistakes on the road. When someone annoys you on the road, take a deep breath and assume it was not intentional. We are all unique and not everyone has the same driving habits. Perhaps they are upset, lost a loved one, just received bad news —it’s about their issues—not yours.
All of us at Jaffarian Volvo Toyota hope that you are not the victim or road rage nor the cause of road rage or aggression while driving. We want you to be safe on the roads and enjoy these beautiful late summer days.