Picture this: you’re on the way home from work and some madman cuts you up forcing you to slam on the brakes. You get a suddenly gust of frustration as you curse out and hit the horn. Immediately you feel a lot better, or do you? Would it have been better to have just ignored it and gone about your day? The answer is yes.

The AAA foundation for Traffic Safety’s July 2016 report revealed that car crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the US, with 78 percent of 2,705 drivers saying they had engaged in aggressive driving behavior in the past year, which ranged from tailgating all the way to purposely blocking other drivers from changing lanes.

Likewise in the UK, a seven-year study recorded over F10,000 Road Rage incidents resulting in 218 deaths and 12,000 injuries. It’s time to start addressing this road rage epidemic rather than dismissing it as a fact of driving. It may feel good to let your frustration out on the road, but over the long term you risk playing into some very unsafe and downright malicious behavior.

a man shouting in the car

What is road rage, and why is it a problem?

Originally, a radio station in Los Angeles created the term road rage after a spate of freeway shootings. Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property”. For most of us, road rage simply refers to acting out with frustration whilst driving.

There’s a fine line between complaining about other drivers and unnecessarily aggressive responses to everyday driving conditions. When you start to verbally berate other road users for minor infractions (Or perceived infractions) you run the risk of this habit developing into more extreme behavior down the line. It’s not uncommon for angry drivers to sound their horns and drive aggressively around other road users.

Such behavior is making public roads dangerous, and taking our attention off the roads. The fleeting satisfaction gained from venting our frustrations at questionable driving is not worth risking our health with unsafe driving. The more time we spend insulting each other and thinking of ways to send a message to other drivers, the less time we have to pay attention to our surroundings.

It’s part of British driving culture to joke about our friends and family suffering from outbursts of road rage, but perhaps our attitude to this behavior is too lax. Perhaps we should start to criticize such behavior for making our roads unsafe. Those in the midst of road rage and their aggressive driving scare and endanger other road users, passers-by and any children in the back. Much like drink driving, road rage is unacceptable.

irritated man in a car

How to deal with road rage

The good thing about road rage is that it’s easy to deal with if you take a consistent approach to eliminating the habit. The best overall approach is to concentrate on the road ahead, think about the effect your behavior has on others and to take a break if you can’t think straight.

Step 1: Focus on your driving

The first step to this is to simply concentrate on the road ahead and stop rushing. No matter what happens make it your absolute priority to focus on driving and avoiding hazards rather than getting stuck in the moment and frustrated over other road users and how long your journey is taking. To help you focus it’s a good idea to take an advanced driving course to keep your skills sharp.

There’s nothing you can do if somebody behaves like a fool on the road, except keeping your wits about you and avoiding future incidents. By letting go of your anger and moving on from the mistakes of other road users you’ll be better equipped to ensure that you avoid making mistakes. You’ll also make the roads a much safer place for other road users!

a road rage sign

Step 2: Think about your effect on other drivers

The next step is to think about what you’re achieving with your behavior. By getting angry and giving into road rage you’re putting yourself and others at risk. Too often we forget that our driving affects other people around us. Every time we get worked up about other driver’s behavior you are putting other drivers at risk.

When you’re angry your ability to drive is seriously impeded and can result in hurting other road users. This is particularly true if you deliberately slam on your brakes and block other cars from overtaking in order to prove a point. Part of this is to define your driving style. If you consider yourself a dynamic and skilled driver at higher speeds remember that driving in such of way can cause accidents.

Aggressive behavior and breaking speed limits causes crashes and generally makes driving an unpleasant experience for others on the road. Next time you get worked up, think about how your driving this could hurt yourself and other road users. It’s better to ease off on the gas pedal and travel safely.

Step 3: Take a break

Finally, if you’re finding it really difficult to keep calm, get yourself off the road and take some time out. It’s all well and good trying to stay calm but sometimes that’s easier said then done. When you’re struggling to keep your cool drive to the nearest safe place and take a break. Taking a break from the road will get you temper back under control so you can drive safely.

man calming down in a car

Road Rage isn’t worth it

Next time you get wound up just remember you have absolutely nothing to gain. Taking your mind off the road has very real consequences, all the way from bumps and scratches to fatalities and criminal charges. Aggressive behavior has no place on the road, and your health is worth far too much to compromise it with petty behavior.

Next time you hear a friend or relative raging over other drivers, check them on it and tell them to calm down. Fortunately, we are still above the average when it comes to safety on the road, but our road rage culture and our lack of opposition to dangerous habits are helping to make driving unsafe and stressful. If we take a stand to stamp out road rage, roads will be much safer in future. This means less stressful driving, and a more rewarding experience.