How to deal with road rage
Most of us wouldn’t behave aggressively when standing face-to-face with a stranger yet when driving, we see rude or angry behaviour flair up, often very quickly. The difference of course is that we are isolated and can’t communicate properly from within our protective bubbles.
So when we see someone jumping the lights on amber or cutting you up on a roundabout, it makes us cross. And we shout (from the protection of our car of course). We wouldn’t know that the gentleman’s child has perhaps been taken into hospital or that the lady has just been made redundant and both are upset and stressed.
These scenarios don’t necessarily make their behaviour right but at least it would be understandable if we knew. Yet we don’t understand because we can’t speak to them, just as they can’t tell us. So we beep the horn. And so things escalate.
We perceive drivers in different ways too, depending on the model or age of their car but actually, we don’t know whether it is a bank robber or vicar behind the wheel.
So, what can we do to make the road a gentler place?
Okay, so we aren’t all perfect behind the wheel. Perhaps we weren’t in the correct lane at an unfamiliar junction or didn’t spot another car as quickly as we should have. A raised hand by way of apology can make a huge difference to other drivers’ perceptions of us. After all, if you trod on someone’s toe by mistake, I’m sure you’d apologise straight away.
Being polite is a state of mind which should be extended to being in your car. Be polite yourself and others are more likely to follow. If you wouldn’t walk past a line of people at the post office and expect to force your way in at the front of the queue, don’t do the same at a road junction.
Avoiding confrontation and keeping calm
It’s an unfortunate fact that some individuals are going to be unpleasant whether at a supermarket, restaurant or behind the wheel of their car. You won’t change this; they just aren’t going to see your point of view. So even if you are in the right in a motoring situation, be the bigger person and just let their behaviour pass.
The important part of any situation where there is an opportunity for something to escalate is to control the things you can. If another driver is going to barge in front of you, the safest reaction is let them. Sometimes this means accepting another driver has done something dangerous or illegal and simply not rising to it. Aim to stay calm. Let their blood pressure rise and not yours.
It goes a step further: mouthing an apology or putting a hand up to say sorry - even if something perhaps wasn’t entirely your fault - can help to diffuse a situation.
• Don’t make eye contact.
• Don’t make rude gestures.
• Avoid retaliation or trying to ‘get even’.
• Don’t use your horn aggressively or as a rebuke.
• Don’t brake hard or deliberately dawdle if someone is tailgating you, just move over when you can.
If things escalate
Someone making rude signs or mouthing off is unpleasant and intimidating but what should you do if things escalate further?
• Keep your doors locked. Many cars do this automatically.
• Don’t get out of the car, even if the other driver has. You are safer inside (and cars are hard to break into).
• Drive away sensibly if you can (don’t roar off, it will only maintain the tension).
• If the other driver follows you, drive to a built-up area and head for somewhere with plenty of people and CCTV (a filling station is ideal because they are easy to find and their CCTV systems are almost always switched on).
• If they don’t go away or you feel your safety is at risk, do call the police from your mobile phone.
• If you feel that someone’s behaviour went well beyond the realms of acceptability, consider reporting them after the event.
• If you experience aggressive or threatening behaviour after an accident - whether it was your fault or not - stay in your car with the doors locked and call the police.
Dashboard cameras or dashcams - small cameras which digitally record rolling video footage - may not stop an unpleasant interaction between drivers but will capture dangerous and unacceptable behaviour (such as aggressive tailgating). This can be used by police. They may act as a deterrent too.
Stay safe on the roads with our tips on how to deal with aggressive drivers & make the road a gentler place.
About the Author
Andrew is a freelance motoring journalist with a background in IT and the vehicle leasing industry. With a lifetime’s passion for all things automotive, he can be found behind the wheel of everything from vans to supercars. In addition to reviewing the latest vehicles and technology, Andrew also runs a couple of classic British motors. He lives at the edge of the Peak District with his son and cat.
Andrew Wright @theMotorWriter