You are well advised to keep your cool in traffic—research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety shows that aggressive driving accounts for between one-third and half of all traffic fatalities.
Be patient and courteous to other drivers, and correct any of your own unsafe driving habits that are likely to endanger, anger, or bother other motorists. Some bad behaviors are:
- Blocking the lane
Don't block the passing lane. Stay out of the far left lane and yield to the right for any vehicle that wants to overtake you. If someone demands to pass, allow him or her to do so.
Maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Dozens of deadly traffic accidents began when one driver tailgated another.
- Not using signals
Don't switch lanes unless you first turn on your turn signal, and make sure you don't cut someone off when you move over. After you've made the maneuver, turn your signal off.
- Making gestures
You are taking a big risk if you raise a middle finger to another driver. Obscene gestures have gotten people beaten, stabbed, and even shot.
- Using your horn
Don't blow your horn at the driver in front of you the second the light turns green. If a stressed-out motorist is on edge, the noise may set him or her off. Scores of violent encounters have begun with a driver honking the horn.
- Parking badly
Do not take more than one parking space and do not park in a disabled parking space if you are not disabled. Don't allow your door to strike an adjacent parked vehicle. When parallel parking, do not tap the other vehicles with your own. Always look before backing up; District law says you may only back up when it is safe to do so.
- Misusing headlights
Keep your headlights on low beam, except on unlighted roads where the darkness makes high beams necessary. Dim your lights to low beam if a car overtakes you or for oncoming traffic, and don’t flash your own high beams if a car comes toward you with its high beams on.
- Blocking traffic
If you are pulling a trailer or driving a cumbersome vehicle that impedes traffic behind you, pull over when you have the opportunity so that motorists behind you can pass. Also, do not block the road while talking to a pedestrian on the sidewalk. .
- Making eye contact
If a hostile motorist tries to pick a fight, do not make eye contact. Get out of the way, but do not acknowledge the other driver. If a motorist pursues you, drive to a police station, convenience store, or other location where you can get help.
Reduce Your Own Stress
Traffic stress—indeed, anger in general—is hazardous to your health. The stress from road congestion is a major factor contributing to violent traffic disputes. Making a few simple changes in the way you approach driving can significantly reduce your stress level in the car.
Consider altering your schedule to avoid the worst congestion. Allow plenty of time so that you do not have to speed or become anxious. Think: is it really the end of the world if you are a bit late? Could you plan your day so you could leave a little earlier?
While in traffic, concentrate on being relaxed. Don't clench your teeth. Loosen your grip on the wheel, and take a deep breath. Don't drive when you are angry, upset, or overtired. Most importantly, understand that you can't control the traffic, but you can control your reaction to it.
Adjust your attitude—Give the other driver the benefit of the doubt—remember you’ve made mistakes, too. Assume that other drivers' mistakes are not done on purpose and are not personal. Be polite, courteous, and forgiving, even if the other driver isn't; it's better to err on the side of caution.
"Road Rage" is a term that is believed to have originated in the United States. In its broadest sense it can refer to any display of aggression by a driver. However, the term is often used to refer to the more extreme acts of aggression, such as a physical assault, that occur as a direct result of a disagreement between drivers.
How to avoid succumbing to road rage
Be aware of any triggers. Avoid stress and fatigue. Don’t assume that an apparently aggressive act was intended as such; we all make mistakes. So don't bite back. Take an example from studies of animal behavior in the wild: the dominant animal in a group will rarely get involved in petty fights and disagreements. Although confident in his or her ability to defeat any opponent, there is always the risk of injury.
How to avoid becoming a victim
Your chances of becoming the victim of a violent road rage attack are very small, and the risks of driving alone can be exaggerated, so don’t worry. Be sensible about your safety but don't be afraid to drive on your own. There are certain things you can or should do, however, if you feel threatened by another motorist:
- If you're being hassled by another driver, try not to react. Put your pride in the back seat. Avoid making eye contact, as this is often seen as confrontational. Don't be tempted to accelerate, brake, or swerve suddenly; again, this may be seen as confrontational and increases your chances of losing control of your vehicle.
- If a driver continues to hassle you or you think you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station or busy place to get help.
- In town, lock the car doors and keep the windows and sunroof only partly open.
- When stopped in traffic, leave enough space to pull out from behind the car you are following if you have to.
- If someone tries to get into your car, attract attention by sounding your horn or a personal alarm.
- Do not be tempted to start a fight or to carry any sort of weapon.