How can you manage anger or defuse a scary encounter on the road? An expert, Dave Melton, Transportation Safety Specialist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, says “Every day, thousands of drivers experience some form of road rage or aggressive driving.” Melton offers steps for avoiding a road rage situation—or getting away from it safely.
You’re being tailgated by someone who is wildly gesticulating and honking the horn. What do you do?
Put on your turn signal, pull over in a safe place and let the other car pass. Do it quickly, before the angry driver has time to become even more upset. Give a courteous “I’m sorry” wave—even if you feel you’re not at fault. An apology can often help defuse anger.
What should you do if the other driver continues to follow?
Stay calm. Don’t make any rude hand gestures. Avoid eye contact. And don’t speed up to try to get away. Quickly find a busy gas station to turn into or, better still, a police station—anywhere with people around to help. Above all, don’t go home (you don’t want the other driver to know where you live), and don’t get out of your car until it’s safe.
How do you avoid enraging other drivers?
Signal your intentions early. When you merge, make sure you have plenty of room. Don’t cut people off. Use the left lane for passing, and then pull back into the right lane. Driving slowly in the left lane on the freeway is a sure way to anger other drivers and compromise your safety. Stay focused, which means not making phone calls or texting. Never pull out into traffic expecting that other drivers will slow down or swerve to avoid you.
How do you avoid becoming a “road rager” yourself?
Don’t take it personally. If someone cuts you off, let it go. Driving is not a contest. Turn down the loud music. Avoid raising your heart rate by giving yourself more time to get to your destination. Make safety your priority.