Ten or fifteen years ago, “road rage” wasn’t even a phrase that people used. Though people experienced getting annoyed at another driver not paying attention to the road, the term road rage simply didn’t exist. Today, sadly, road rage has become a household word. Road rage is a behavior phenomenon where people angrily overreact to a traffic offense, such as a car suddenly changing lanes in front of you. The result is rude gesturing, screaming obscenities, and can even escalate to physical violence or death.
Aggressive driving is the biggest cause of road rage. Aggressive driving is defined as committing unprovoked attacks on other drivers. These attacks may include, but certainly aren’t limited to: following a vehicle too closely, failure to yield right of way, changing lanes or speeds suddenly, passing in the shoulder or median, or intentionally slamming on your brakes. It’s easy to see how aggressive driving can incite road rage.
Road rage is incredibly prevalent on today’s roads and highways. Sixty-six percent of all traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving. A firearm is involved in nearly 40% of aggressive driving incidents. During a seven-year period of time, over 200 murders and over 12,000 injuries have been attributed to road rage as the cause. And possibly the scariest statistic of them all - 2% of drivers actually admit to attempting to run another driver off the road. Some other extreme examples of road rage include:
Everyone is susceptible to anger while driving, but there are certain situations that are more apt to result in road rage. Situations where emotions are running high such as losing your job, getting into a heated argument with a loved one, having to discipline your kids while driving, or having to rush because you’re running late can shorten your temper. When that happens, you’re not as patient as you need to be when you’re driving. You can become reactive to even the slightest perceived personal affront. And that’s exactly where road rage starts.
You can make sure that you aren’t personally causing road rage by not driving while distracted, driving carefully, attentively, and thinking about how other drivers perceive your driving habits. For instance, do you tend to change lanes suddenly without using your mirrors? Do you often turn without using a turn signal? Do you turn into traffic while another vehicle is approaching, causing them to have to slow down? These are frustrating situations that we’ve all experienced at one time or another, but by being more attentive and thoughtful behind the wheel, we can eliminate these behaviors and the road rage that might follow.
Handling road rage is largely about taking the high road. When someone cuts you off in traffic or does something else to upset you while driving, be the bigger person, take a deep breath, and try to let it slide. Don’t feel as if you have to retaliate by giving the other driver the finger, honking, or yelling at them out the window. Don’t take the other driver’s actions personally. This is going to lower your stress level, stave off road rage, and keep you safe.
If you find that you’ve done something to upset another driver (whether you are truly at fault or not), don’t react. Doing so will only serve to escalate the situation. Simply continue driving, and try to avoid eye contact. You can even attempt to make the situation better by mouthing an apology to the other driver, or simply letting them pass you by. Remember that arriving to your destination safely is more important than anything, and that your ego doesn’t belong behind the wheel.
Your best bet is to try to prevent road rage from ever happening in the first place. You can do this by getting into the right mindset before you even get into your car. Think to yourself that you’re going to drive calmly and patiently, no matter what happens. Concentrate on being attentive to the road and other drivers around you. When you get into your car, put on an audiobook or soft music that you enjoy. Avoid hurrying. Do what you can to relax. Keep an appropriate amount of space between other drivers and yourself. This will not only keep you and other drivers safe, but it’ll also help you avoid being arrested due to road rage.
That’s right - in California, road rage is punishable as an assault offense, and will result in a six-month to one-year driver’s license suspension. Depending on the type of crime you’ve committed (hit and run, assault with a deadly weapon, etc.) you’ll be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony. You’ll have to pay enormous fines (some reaching tens of thousands of dollars), court costs, could face jail time, and you’ll have a permanent criminal record.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a road rage incident, you should consider contacting a Sacramento accident attorney right away to make sure your rights are protected and find out how to get the compensation you deserve.