As determined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there is a clear distinction between road rage and aggressive driving. Technically, road rage is a criminal act that requires endangerment of another person while committing a traffic offense, assault with a vehicle, or use of a dangerous weapon by you or any passengers in your car. Aggressive driving is classified as an offense. For the sake of the general use of the word, however, let’s talk about road rage as referring to aggressive driving.
It’s important to note that a staggering 66% of traffic fatalities are credited to aggressive driving. If you’ve experienced the stress of driving aggressively or around others, you’re probably aware of just how intense it can be.
What Can We Do?
Even if we’re not necessarily the ones provoking it, our fight or flight responses play out quickly. If we’re already in a heightened state and on high alert, it can be difficult to mentally associate the machine we’re rivaling as a human being. If we come face to face with the driver, it can be even more triggering to receive the ill manners and anger that often accompany dangerous road rage.
So how do we manage? Even if it’s not always our fault, and though we can never predict who’s going to be on the road, there are steps we can take to minimize our chances of seeing or becoming a statistic.
Leaving earlier will always make for an easier drive. Avoid speeding and cruise at your leisure. Leaving with extra time will give you peace of mind knowing that you have plenty of time to be on time, regardless of whoever feels like stopping up traffic.
Stage Your Phone
Propping your phone up with a phone holder or mount will save you the stress of fumbling with your device to check the GPS, answer a call, or switch a song. If you’re the kind that’s not going to put your phone down while driving, this is a must. Stay safe, focused, and alert for other drivers and traffic signals by putting your phone in its place—out of your hands while driving.
Save Difficult Conversations for Park
As long as your gears are in drive, find the discipline to avoid having difficult conversations while driving. This is an understandable challenge given that the world and its dilemmas do not stop just because we’re on the road. Being angry, stressed, or anxiety-ridden while operating a vehicle will likely translate to your driving style. Or someone else’s because you were distracted and cut them off.
Always Turn Your Head Before Changing Lanes
Don’t rely on mirrors or other’s ability to drive safely. Avoid missing that blind spot and provoking an unruly driver by making sure to visibly check the lane you’re transferring into with your naked eye. If you don’t already do this occasionally, practice first on small, quiet streets. Practice glancing without losing track of the road in front of you.
Don’t Drive to Your Music
Music is amazing, and it can vamp up your rides. Don’t let a good thing go sour by ignoring how you respond to music while driving. Music can often provoke unsolicited emotional responses that we aren’t immediately aware of. Keep notice on whether or not you tend to drive faster or slower to certain songs.
Be a Courteous Driver
Hopefully, this one is a given, but as your mother said in grade school, what goes around comes around. If you want to avoid other aggressive drivers, your best bet is to be non-confrontational on the road yourself.
Follow Traffic Rules to a “T”
This goes hand in hand with being a courteous driver. Don’t settle for following traffic rules when it’s convenient. Make it a habit. If you often provoke other drivers and don’t understand what you’re doing wrong, brush up on traffic rules. There’s no shame in this. Most of us took our driving exams as teens. A gentle refresh can’t hurt.
Stay Away from Aggressive Drivers
If you come in contact with an aggressive or road raging driver, get away as soon as possible. Transfer lanes, slow down, speed up, or take the next exit. But whatever you do, don’t attempt to engage even at a glance. You never know what’s fueling someone else’s rage.
If you think you may be an aggressive driver, don’t sweat it. Just don’t forget it. Be a mindful driver, and stay in your lane.