Do any of these sound familiar? You’re cut off by a driver who flashes you a gesture as they go by. You’re being tailgated. Someone honks impatiently because you’ve taken just a little bit too long to respond to a light that changed from red to green. Or maybe you’ve done nothing at all, but another driver is just having a really bad day. These are all examples of road rage and aggressive driving, and today, they’re on the rise.
Knowing how to respond to aggressive drivers calmly is an important part of safe driving and the best way to prevent accidents or even physical altercations that can get ugly. If you find yourself the target of a road rage or aggressive driving incident, here are a few tips to help you control your own temper and stay safe:
- Keep your hands on the wheel. When you see someone make an obscene or aggressive gesture or shout obscenities through the window, your first response may be to repay in kind. Chances are that will just make things get worse. Instead, take a deep breath, forget the gestures, the honking, and the flashing headlights and keep your focus on the road and your driving habits.
- Take some deep breaths. You may be more stressed than you think, and that means you’re more likely to respond to aggressive driving. Make it a point to take a few deep breaths while you’re driving and relax your shoulders, where stress tends to build up.
- Avoid making eye contact. Even a simple glance that catches an aggressive driver’s eye can be interpreted as menacing or provocative. Keep your eyes focused on what you’re doing to stay safe and avoid looking in the other car’s direction unless you absolutely have to.
- Leave some space. Making sure there’s room between you and the cars around you not only avoids the appearance of tailgating that can make some drivers angry – it also gives you some room in case you need to move out of the way of a driver who’s speeding, weaving in and out of traffic or cuts you off. Highway driving can be crowded, but try to provide yourself with a buffer zone, just in case.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a significant portion of the nearly 7 million accidents that occur each year in the U.S. are due to road rage and aggressive driving incidents, and it’s more important than ever to practice safe driving habits to avoid others’ dangerous behaviors. Keep these tips in mind, and if you have teen drivers in your home, share the tips with them for their own safety and your peace of mind.