With as much time as we Americans spend behind the wheel, it’s no wonder that people get a little testy every now and then. However, annoyance can quickly escalate into anger and road rage. Road rage is defined as aggressive or violent behavior stemming from a driver’s uncontrolled anger at the actions of another motorist. It can be dangerous and even deadly.
Here are five ways to stay cool — and safe —behind the wheel:
1. Take the high road. If another driver yells or makes an obscene gesture directed at you, don’t engage. Responding in kind can escalate the situation. Focus on your driving and try to avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver. Don’t honk. In fact, try to use your horn only when needed to get another driver’s attention to prevent an accident — not to express anger. Likewise, don’t flash your lights at other drivers when you’re annoyed.
Every time you drive, be courteous. When in doubt, let the other car go first. Signal every time you merge, change lanes or turn.
2. Give them space. Physical space can protect you in the event another driver acts erratically. Don’t tailgate another vehicle or slow down.
3. Disengage. In the event of a road rage incident, you might consider changing lanes to create some distance between you and the other driver. Give the other driver plenty of space to get around you. Don’t block the passing lane or obstruct the flow of traffic, even if you’re going the posted speed limit. Always allow faster traffic access to the passing lane.
4. Recenter. Focus on you and your driving. You don’t have to let an angry driver ruin your day!
5. Report it. Things can get ugly really fast. Never (ever) pull off to the side of the road to confront another driver. If you feel personally threatened or feel like the other person is a hazard on the road, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you feel like you are in danger, it’s OK to use your cell phone. When you call, provide a description of the vehicle, license number, and your location and travel direction.
Remember, one of the most dangerous places to be is behind the wheel. Don’t compromise your safety or others’ by reacting.