Yes, that bumper-riding, horn-honking, finger-flipping driver could use a lesson in manners. But not from you – for your own sake.
Aggressive driving (speeding, tailgating, changing lanes abruptly) accounts for about one-third of accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration. Half of aggressive-driving victims get so caught up in the moment, they respond aggressively themselves, taking an already bad situation and making it worse.
Here are six tips to help you stay calm if a road-rager targets you:
1. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the rager doesn’t know you at all. Most ragers are already seething about something and looking for a reason to explode – and, unfortunately, they picked your “driving error,” whether it’s real or imagined. (Here are some mistakes that put a target on your back.) Take slow, calming breaths and focus on safety.
2. Lock your doors and roll up the windows. If the rager crashes into you, you want a barrier to separate you.
3. Don’t engage. That means don’t honk, shout or gesture back. Don’t even make eye contact if you can help it. And never be tempted to “brake check” a tailgater!
4. Get away safely. If you’re on a freeway, put on your turn signal and move to the right lane as soon as it’s safe. Don’t pull over and stop, though. To a road-rager, that looks like an invitation to swoop in behind you and fight it out. Ragers also tend to misinterpret things if you try to speed off (translation: You think you’re faster than me? Game on!). If the rager follows you, drive to a police or fire station or very public place. Casinos make surprisingly good safe havens – they’re busy at all hours, have cameras everywhere and maintain onsite security. If you feel threatened, honk your horn in the parking lot to attract attention. Never get out of your car, and don’t head home until you’re sure you’re not being followed.
5. Ask a passenger to discreetly write down information rather than snapping a picture with their phone (if the rager sees, that would be an additional trigger!). Having the rager’s description, license plate number and vehicle color, make and model will help the police if the situation escalates.
6. Call 9-1-1. If you believe you or other drivers are in physical danger, get help. A police officer will respond or coach you on what to do.
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