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(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)

Road rage is where a driver displays inappropriately aggressive or confronting behavior on the roads. It can include cutting another driver off, tailgating, or deliberately crashing into a vehicle or threatening to do so. Road rage also covers such actions as overuse of the horn, making a rude gesture, verbally abusing other road users, and getting out of a car and threatening others as well as causing them actual physical harm.

Most of us have been subject to road rage and have perhaps engaged in it ourselves at some point. Getting involved in road rage can be a very dangerous thing. Plenty of incidents have been recorded where someone has been seriously injured or killed as a result of yelling abuse at a driver for some minor infringement. There are a number of ways to avoid rage altercations.

If you’re the victim of aggressive driving and someone has cut in front of you or is following too closely, it is very tempting to want to respond by sounding your horn, braking, or pursuing the other driver. These actions will often make things worse. The driver might already be angry or upset at something, or they may not even think they have done anything wrong, and might retaliate in some way. This could result in a collision or the driver getting out of their vehicle to confront you. He or she might be drunk or in a stolen car and couldn’t care less. You never know. Think of the dangers of crashing or an angry person approaching you with a weapon in their hand.

The best course of action in these sorts of situations is to avoid a confrontation as much as possible. Do your best to ignore the person. A road rager often wants to teach the other party a lesson and looks for a reaction. Realize that they have the problem, not you. Or consider the possibility that the person is running late or is lost and didn’t mean to cut you off and is usually a nice person. Be forgiving. Try and stay calm. This may seem easier said than done. But try deep breathing or counting to ten. Perhaps play calming music whenever you drive.

Move out of the driver’s way if you can. It’s probably best to slow down and let the aggressive driver get well ahead of you. They are usually in a hurry so this shouldn’t be too difficult. If the person is behind you and won’t or can’t move ahead, consider turning off the road and rejoining it in a minute or two. However, if the driver seems to be pursuing you, it might be advisable to drive to the nearest police station, or ring them on your cell phone if possible. If traffic is slow or stationary, make sure your doors are locked and windows are up, in case the driver jumps out of the other car and approaches you.

In a merger situation in slow traffic, if a car in the other lane decides not to take it in turns to merge and pushes in front of you, let them do so. Some drivers will keep pushing until a collision occurs. Besides, it’s better to have an aggressive driver in front of you than behind you.

If you have inadvertently cut someone off, and the other driver sounds their horn or makes a gesture, try not to respond in kind. Instead, put your hand up as a sign of being sorry. This may have an instant calming effect on the driver and the problem is resolved before it starts.

Where the driver in front is very slow, you might be tempted to travel too close or use your hand to try and usher the driver along a bit faster. Have patience and hold back. Consider that the driver might be in an unfamiliar area or simply isn’t willing to drive at the speed limit. What will help here is to try and start your journey on time or, better still, a little earlier to allow for unforeseen delays. If you are running late for an appointment, you will probably feel stressed and will be more likely to engage in road rage, whether initiating it or reacting to the actions of others.

One of the best ways to avoid road rage is to take the bus or train whenever you can. An additional advantage is that you will arrive at work or for your appointment feeling more relaxed. Public transport probably works out cheaper too. If there are no trains or buses, you might be able to avoid peak hour. Many employers have flexible work hours these days. Or you may be able to take a different route with less traffic or fewer tricky merger situations. Eating well and getting eight hours sleep will also make you less stressed and less likely to want to be involved in road rage. Most importantly, be responsible for your actions, whether you are provoked or not.

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