Road Rage: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Road Rage: What It Is and How to Avoid It

Jay Stillman

5 min read

Road rage can be a common manifestation of anger that takes place when individuals operate vehicles. It can appear in many different forms, can be responsible for numerous accidents, and can be both a recurring issue and a concern for everyone sharing the road. 

Most Common Forms of Road Rage

Road rage can appear in many different forms, including:

  • Drivers speeding and passing other cars in a reckless, dangerous fashion.
  • Drivers tailgating other vehicles.
  • Drivers excessively honking their horns in an irritating, frustrated manner.
  • Drivers gesturing and shouting at others on the road.
  • Drivers changing lanes repeatedly and without warning.
  • Drivers getting in front of other cars and slowing down as retaliation for a perceived slight.

While there are many ways that road rage can appear, there are also many easy ways to avoid the stresses and strains of the road in order to prevent this kind of anger from taking a foothold in the first place. 

For instance, simple driving tools and apps can allow a driver to avoid areas with traffic jams. This can prevent them from exposing themselves to frustration-inducing scenarios and, consequently, reduce the chances of spiraling into an angry attitude while on the road.

Cause of Road Rage

While road rage can be caused by any number of things, including something as simple as having a bad day, there are a few factors that contribute to road rage scenarios more than others:

  • Traffic: Whether it’s due to an accident, a traffic light, a speed trap, or anything else, congestion on the road can be very frustrating to drivers, especially at the beginning or end of a long day.
  • Manners: Driving is a privilege that requires cooperation and manners from other drivers and even pedestrians and cyclists. A lack of manners can lead to road rage scenarios, either because of or in response to rude behavior.
  • Poor driving: If a driver sits in the left lane, fails to put on a turn signal, uses their cell phone while driving, abruptly cuts someone off, or exhibits any other poor driving behavior, it can cause others to get angry.
  • Personal pressure: If someone is late for a meeting, hurrying to reach someone, or even feeling upset about their personal life, they may feel justified to get angry at others while on the road.
  • Aggressive driving: While closely connected, aggressive driving and road rage aren’t the same thing. However, the former can quickly lead to the latter when those on the road don’t practice defensive driving.
  • Anonymity: The lack of personalization combined with the perceived absence of repercussions can often encourage angry outbursts while on the road.
  • Habit: Force of habit is powerful, and if a person is accustomed to venting anger or they have grown up watching others do so, they may slip into road rage due to the slightest reason.

These are just a few of the many reasons that people can get angry on the road. 

How to Avoid Road Rage

The specific reasons for road rage are important to identify, as they can enable a driver to avoid these scenarios — both for themselves and for others — while driving. Here are a few suggestions for ways to set yourself up for a safe, calm driving experience every time you take the wheel.

Before You Drive

Often road rage is an outward expression of something that extends far beyond the two lanes on the road itself. Take the time before you ever put the key in the ignition or hit that start button to calm your mind and prepare for the drive ahead of you.

Take a deep breath, slow down your thoughts, and strive to bring your mind into the moment. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown meditation session, however, taking the time to calm your thoughts can help to prevent stress and anxiety from your work and personal life from seeping into your responses as you navigate the roads.

You can also put on some relaxing music, an audiobook, or podcast to help keep your mind cool and collected as you drive. Only start driving when you genuinely feel present and in a good mood.

Remember While Driving

Even if you start with a calm mind and good intentions, you’re likely going to interact with others on the road before long, and the temptation to get angry may quickly follow. 

With this in mind, here are a few suggestions for ways to stay calm once you’re on the road:

  • Always consider safety: Just because you’re in a hurry or someone else cut you off doesn’t mean you have the right to be unsafe in return. Always prioritize a safe, defensive-minded driving mentality.
  • Remember who you control: You may not have control over a car that just sped past you or an angry fellow driver that laid on the horn, but it’s important to remember that you do have control over your own reaction to each situation. Reciprocating anger only demonstrates a lack of control over yourself.
  • Cultivate a positive, thankful attitude: When driving, it’s important to proactively look for the good and the positive around you. This can help you counteract any angry, knee-jerk reactions you may have while driving.
  • Drive a mile in another’s shoes: Just like the old phrase to “walk a mile in another’s shoes,” it’s important to consider what personal struggles and trials may be causing other drivers to act out in anger. This is a much better option than responding to negative behavior with a vengeful or vigilante attitude.

If you can genuinely put in an effort to recognize road rage in yourself and others, it can become be easier to respond in a way that will be both better for your health and safer for everyone on the road around you.

What to Do If Another Driver Acts Aggressively

While it’s important to avoid being the source of road rage, it’s equally important to guard against being harmed by road rage when it manifests in another person. Here are a few suggestions for how to react when you’re confronted with an angry driver:

  • Avoid the situation if possible: Slow down in another lane or take a different path to your destination in order to let the angry driver pass.
  • Don’t feed the fire: If someone is tailgating you, don’t hit the brakes in order to “teach them a lesson.” Resist the urge to reciprocate in a way that could exacerbate their anger.
  • Look for a police station: If you find yourself being followed or aggravated by an angry driver, look for a nearby law-enforcement station and drive there so that you can diffuse the road rage with policemen nearby.

It’s important to avoid being involved in a road rage incident. Whether you’re keeping your own emotions in check or avoiding another person who is driving while angry, proactively avoiding road rage can help to reduce car, motorcycle, and truck accidents at all times.