What to do when you’re confronted with road rage

Road rage has been described by Sally Davies, a clinical psychologist, as a social problem that appears to be increasing all over the world, along with traffic congestion and levels of frustration on roads. It occurs when people who are already vulnerable to aggressive outbursts are led to express their rage and, more critically, direct it towards total strangers.

Davies says that from behind the wheel, it is so easy to personalise relationships on the road. We find ourselves in a position of power and safety, free to insult other drivers verbally, make moves that restrict or obstruct them, make aggressive gestures with hands, flash our lights, sound our horns, or otherwise act out fantasies of being “in charge” – as if we had been appointed Road Monitor.

There appears to be various reasons for extreme rage. Some people who have a prior history of severe outbursts might have mental disorders, assaulting others or destroying property owing to rage. There are also other antisocial personalities, those who abuse drugs and alcohol or just your everyday motorist who is psychologically ripe for road rage. There is absolutely no point in antagonising any one of these people no matter what right you think you might have. It is just not worth it.

The following good suggestions come from our road safety friends in Canada, The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec and CAA-Quebec, who urge drivers to avoid situations that can lead to confrontation.

“As motorists, we all have a responsibility and numerous opportunities to cool the emotional temperature on the roads.”

If a driver is putting pressure on you:

  • If possible and safe, move to the left and let the other driver pass you.

If you are faced with aggressive behaviour:

  • Stay calm.
  • Avoid eye contact with the aggressive driver so as not to exacerbate the situation.
  • Do not respond to provocative words or actions.
  • Do not respond with disrespectful words or actions.
  • Do what you can to avoid conflict.

If an aggressive person leaves their vehicle and heads toward you:

  • Remain in your vehicle, make sure the windows are shut and doors locked.
  • Avoid arguing with the aggressive driver, looking at the person or making provocative gestures.
  • Leave the area and go to a place where you can get help.
  • Do not go home if the aggressive driver is following you.
  • If you’re in traffic and can’t drive away, pick up your cell phone and show the person you are calling the police.
  • If the person doesn’t back off, honk your horn to attract the attention of other drivers.
  • Note the make of the other driver’s car and his or her licence plate.

As motorists, we all have a responsibility and numerous opportunities to cool the emotional temperature on the roads. Every small act of road courtesy, of giving way, a smile or gracious ‘thank you’ wave, making positive eye contact before you join a line, contributes to harmony. Remember, it is better to get there late than not get there at all.

Also read:

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Friendly Freddy, your road safety friend

The Arrive Alive Online initiative is aimed at enhancing road safety awareness as part of the much needed “E” for Education required in making roads safer! They believe that an informed road user is a safer road user and have become a very important tool to distribute road safety content not only via the Arrive Alive website, but also through a variety of road safety and insurance related blogs.