You're driving down the road to get to work, and some guy who just happens to be in a bigger hurry than you cuts you off so abruptly, you have to slam on your brakes, and your tires squeal under the hard braking. You're so angry, you accelerate to catch up to him to give a piece of your mind. And the rest is history. Road rage is a daily reality for many drivers, and it's on the rise. If you drive, you'll eventually experience road rage, either as a victim or the instigator. 

fender bender
An accident can be the start of road rage or the result of it.

The numbers don't lie. There's a lot of road rage going on out there on American roads.The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the Auto Vantage auto club provided stats that show the dramatic and tragic results:  

  • 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
  • 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.
  • Males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage.
  • Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves.
  • Over a seven-year period, 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage.

Those stats are frightening, and you can easily become the victim or the aggressor. Here's how to keep yourself safe on the road and avoid road rage situations. 

1. Cool Down Before You Head Out

angry woman driver
Training yourself to calm down before you leave is easier than teaching you just not to honk.

If you're stressed before you leave the house or office, that's a bad start. We get that everyone's in a hurry most of the time, but if you actually stop to take a deep breath and count to ten, you'll save yourself a lot of headaches and potential danger. It's better to get to your destination calmly and safely than not at all, isn't it? Here are some tips:

  • Give yourself a couple of minutes before you leave to stop and think about your drive. Consider potentially high-stress, high-traffic areas that could present problems on your drive.
  • Take a deep breath and count slowly to ten, telling yourself that you're committing to having a peaceful drive no matter what happens.
  • Promise yourself to only honk if there's an immediate danger.
  • Think about something you're looking forward to doing later on that day.
  • Commit to driving the speed limit and realize rushing rarely results in cutting your drive time down.

2. Realize You Could Lose Your Life

road rage gun
You never know who is packing a firearm. Best not to find out.

No amount of time-savings on the road is worth your life. The Trace, a nonprofit news organization focused on gun violence, found that cases of road rage involving a firearm more than doubled from 2014 to 2016, with 136 people killed in those three years. Even if drivers aren't carrying a gun, a shocking 2% of drivers admit to trying to run other drivers off the road. A car can also be used as a weapon. Think about keeping yourself out of harm's way, no matter what. Also, if you're prone to road rage, never keep a firearm in your vehicle. 

3. Apologize and Forgive

driver waving hand
A simple smile and a courteous wave can diffuse almost any situation. 

If you've done something accidentally, like cut off another driver while merging or changing lanes, be proactive and wave apologetically. It's wise to stave off potential road rage from another driver by being kind and proactively diffusing the situation. It will go miles in making things better. You lose nothing by being kind. Also, be quick to forgive when someone does the same to you. We get that it's easier said than done, but your life could depend on it.

  • Even if another driver cuts you off, try not to honk your horn. 
  • If you cut someone off or accidentally do something to upset another driver, respond kindly by giving a quick wave or mouthing "sorry". 
  • De-escalate the situation by not reacting in a negative way. Nothing you do in an aggressive manner will help the situation.

4. Create Distance

follow distance
If you sense that someone is angry with you, it's smart to just back off and/or put traffic between you.

If you can't calm the person down by apologizing, just create distance between you and them. Of course, don't do it by speeding and potentially putting others in danger. Just decelerate or change lanes until there's a safe barrier. While you're doing this, try to take deep breaths and calm down. Also look for safe escape routes. 

Rubbernecking them or pulling alongside to give them a piece of your mind are the worst things you can do. After all, is it a horrible offense if they cut you off? Realize It's not and that you're actually making things more dangerous than they did by escalating the situation. 

5. Contact Police

police car lights

If things are about to go bad, or they have already taken that route, contact the police. You're not overreacting if you feel that you're in danger.

  • Dial 911 emergency and let them know your approximate location, your car's description, and the aggressor's vehicle make, model, and color if you can. Let them know you feel you're in danger because of the driver's threatening actions.
  • Speak clearly and calmly. Don't make things worse by yelling or talking too fast while you're on the line with the dispatcher.
  • Continue to try to create distance and, if necessary, find the closest police station where you can pull in. Chances are they'll easily back off then. Whatever the case, prepare to make the call quickly, and keep your cool.