The sun is shining and everyone is trying to get the most out of their summer while it lasts, but hotter temperatures and clogged freeways are a surefire recipe for driver irritability and possible road rage. Of 10,000 road rage incidents, over a seven year span, 218 resulted in murders and another 12,610 people were injured, as reported by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 11 states have passed laws that define and mandate aggressive driving – Minnesota is currently not one of them. This makes it particularly important for MN drivers to understand road rage, as well as aggressive driving, so that they can not only avoid it, but also contribute to a safer driving experience for everyone.
AGGRESSIVE DRIVING VERSUS ROAD RAGE: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Aggressive driving is a factor in 56% of fatal crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Impatience is at the root of aggressive driving which includes such endangering actions as tailgating, speeding, swerving in and out of lanes, failure to use turn signals, illegal passing (such as on the shoulder), running red lights and disregarding other traffic safety devices.
A driver usually needs to be committing two or more of these to be considered an aggressive driver.
While aggressive driving consists of traffic offenses, road rage is a full-on criminal offense and occurs when a driver loses his or her temper and intentionally seeks to threaten or hurt another person, driving in a way to purposefully put another’s life at risk. In the worst case scenarios, road rage can result in assault with a motor vehicle or weapon and can end in death or injury. A few warning signs that aggressive driving might escalate into road rage include screaming or shouting, excessive honking, and making rude gestures at the other driver.
TIPS FOR REMAINING CALM BEHIND THE WHEEL
Anyone who’s been behind the wheel knows that driving can get frustrating at times. Many drivers even have their own pet peeves such as tailgaters, speeders, or talking on the phone while driving. There will always be moments of frustration – it’s how you handle your emotions that can either add to, or diffuse, road rage. Here are some tips to help you keep calm in any situation.
Be proactive. Don’t wait for an incident to happen to find out how you will handle it. Each time you get in the car, remind yourself that driving is a serious responsibility that comes with a fair amount of risk. Take a moment to calm your mind and get centered before you hit the road.
It’s not a race. If you’re not in a rush, unanticipated delays won’t feel like such a big deal. Leave a little earlier to ensure you have plenty of time to reach your destination – even if something comes up.
Be courteous and recognize that we’re all alike. Just like you, every driver has some place they’re trying to get to, a goal to accomplish. And just like you, everyone has an off day here and there. Don’t hesitate to give someone the benefit of the doubt – who knows what they may be dealing with or going through. So if you have a little patience to give, make a little leeway for those who might not be doing so well.
It’s not worth it. If someone cuts you off, speeds by, or even gestures at you, remind yourself of how road rage incidents often end. Is it really worth dying over or killing another person for? Think of your family at home. They need you to stay calm so you can be with them. If it helps, keep a small photo of a loved one in the car as a reminder to always be safe for those who love you. Attach it somewhere you can see it, without taking your eyes off the road.
Follow the rules of the road. If you know you’re doing something wrong and someone calls you on it by honking or yelling, it can cause feelings of anger and a need for retaliation. On the other hand, if you know you aren’t doing anything wrong, that you’re just following the rules of the road as you go about your day, it can help you to keep your cool if another driver becomes aggressive.
Listen to calm music and breathe. If traffic is getting a little heavy, or someone does something that makes you mad, it can help to listen to some soothing music. Deep breathes can also help ease stress until the situation and negative feelings pass.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF CONFRONTED BY AN AGGRESSIVE DRIVER
According to the Minnesota Department of Transportation if you encounter an aggressive driver you should:
Get out of their way as soon as you can safely.
Stay calm — reaching your destination safely is your goal.
Do not challenge them.
Avoid eye contact.
Ignore gestures and don’t return them.
Report aggressive driving (vehicle description, license number, location).
Always buckle up to maintain proper seating position in case of abrupt driving maneuvers.
If an aggressive driver starts following you, don’t stop your vehicle or get out. Instead, drive to the nearest police or fire station or other well-lit area and seek help, but don’t exit the vehicle until you know you’re safe. Usually just driving to a police station is enough to deter the other driver from making further threats.
Don’t be another statistic. Take your role as a driver seriously and put in the effort to keep your emotions in check. Your life is not the only one depending on it.