How to avoid road rage during the season of peace

By Erik Harden, BWC Public Information Officer

People have a lot to stress about right now. Making six dozen cookies for the neighbor’s cookie exchange. Psyching yourself up for Christmas dinner with the in-laws. Hearing “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” for the 20th time in the past 24 hours.

It’s enough to make even the calmest person edgy. Put them behind the wheel of a car, and it can mean real trouble. But in all seriousness, the added stressors of the holidays can contribute to increased instances of road rage. When a driver experiences road rage (as the victim or the perpetrator), the potential to crash a vehicle increases. Road rage usually encompasses four emotions: anger, impatience, competing and punishment.

When people drive angry, it usually shows itself in tell-tale signs, such as: speeding; cutting others off; tailgating; erratic lane changes, etc. Impatience makes drivers feel easily annoyed by other drivers and pedestrians. Impatient drivers react more strongly to things like slower drivers, not being able to pass another vehicle or with pedestrians crossing the street.

The urge to compete can include challenging other drivers when lanes merge or for limited parking spaces. Competing often leads to punishing behaviors such as: blocking other cars trying to merge; riding too close to other cars; cursing and making obscene gestures to other drivers; seeking to encounter another driver.

Never resort to punishing behaviors. If you believe another driver wants to start a fight, seek help – head for a police station. Do not get out of your car, and avoid going home alone. In some states, there are special telephone num­bers to report aggressive drivers. Here in Ohio, you can call 1-800-GRAB DUI.

Thankfully, there are also several strategies we can all take to minimize the potential dangers of road rage, including:

  • Not reacting to provocation – don’t offend, don’t engage.
  • Steering clear of erratic drivers.
  • Avoiding eye contact with aggressive drivers.
  • Using your horn sparingly.
  • Not making obscene gestures.
  • Not switching lanes without signaling.
  • Not blocking the passing lane.
  • Not tailgating.
  • Not taking more than one parking space.
  • Being polite and courteous even if other drivers are not.
  • Avoiding conflict, and allowing plenty of time for your trip.

The potential per­sonal costs of road rage can be high, including crashes, injuries, disabilities and even loss of life. Remember to keep things in perspective when you’re behind the wheel, and give yourself enough time to get to your destination safely – even if it’s to your in-laws’ house.

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