Oct 31, 2016
We’ve all been there – the feeling of rage building up when we get stuck in traffic, are running late or get cut off by another driver. That feeling is road rage, and it’s a common occurrence today. It’s also potentially very dangerous if you don’t control your emotions in that moment.
However, many Canadians are failing to control their emotions when behind the wheel. According to a recent survey, 1 in 3 Canadians admit to suffering from road rage at least once per month. Getting cut off, having someone steal your parking spot, slow drivers impeding traffic and other people not abiding by road rules is frustrating. These also tend to be common triggers for many drivers.
Of the biggest pet peeves for drivers, 30% cited tailgating, 22% distracted driving, 22% getting cut off, and 11% another driver taking up two parking spots. There is no shortage of reasons why drivers become frustrated and act out.
What Is Road Rage?
Road rage is a form of aggressive driving, and it can take on many different forms. From cutting off other vehicles, following too closely, engaging in dangerous driving habits and not obeying traffic laws, you never know how a driver in a fit of road rage will react. It is perhaps best defined not by a specific action, but as a negative emotional response or aggressive reaction to a situation or other driver.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as a situation when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle."
The scary thing about road rage is that most drivers have experienced it. “One study estimates that more than half of all drivers have experienced a surge of road rage at some point, although not all bang into the offender's rear bumper, pull a pistol, or hurl a helpless puppy into oncoming traffic,” says Jean Lawrence on WebMD.
Just How Dangerous Is Road Rage and Aggressive Driving?
While many assume road rage to be nothing more than an overly aggressive driver or someone honking their horn, it is a lot more serious than most realize.
“Many road rage behaviours can be considered aggressive driving, which is one of the leading causes of death on Ontario highways,” said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt to CBC News.
"We still see it all the time, and people are just frustrated on the highways, I guess, and taking it out on their fellow motorists," Schmidt adds.
Alarming Road Rage And Aggressive Driving Stats
Not convinced that road rage is a serious issue? In addition to some of the crazy videos that have popped up online, here are some eye opening stats from safemotorist.com that communicate the dangers of road rage :
- 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.
- 2% of drivers admit to trying to run an aggressor off the road!
What Causes Road Rage?
There is no shortage of causes that can lead to road rage. Some you bring on yourself, and some are brought on by other drivers and driving situations. Here are some of the main causes of road rage :
- Elevated levels of stress
- Traffic congestion
- Poor driving conditions
- Poor driving habits – failure to signal, check blind spots or engaging in distracted driving
- Reactions from other drivers
- Running late
- Being tired or driving for too long without a break
- Poor mood
These are only some of the countless things that could cause you or other drivers to break into a fit of road rage. While you cannot control the actions or emotions of other drivers, there are things you can do to ensure you stay level headed when driving.
How to Avoid Aggressive Driving and Road Rage Incidents
Avoiding aggressive driving habits and road rage incidents is the key to staying safe on the roads. Here are some easy to implement ways to avoid aggressive driving and situations where road rage could occur :
- Be self-aware: Being conscious of the situations that make you tense while driving and being aware of your tension level will help you better control your emotions when driving. If you feel stressed or impatient, take a deep breath and refocus on driving.
- Pull over and take a break: Whether you have a long commute or are starting to feel irritated, it’s a good idea to take a break to relax and calm down.
- Don’t rush: Always give yourself enough time to get to your destination. Check the traffic, construction, and weather in your area so you can plan your route accordingly.
- Get some sleep: Lack of sleep has a big impact on your mood and ability to drive attentively. A poor night’s sleep will not only make you irritable, it can also increase your chances of making a mistake when driving.
- Don’t sweat the small things: This is perhaps the most important point of all. You and other drivers will make mistakes and errors in judgement when driving – it’s human nature. If another driver makes a mistake, rather than honking your horn or yelling, just let it go. It’s not worth getting upset about and potentially escalating the situation.
- Don’t take things personally: Don’t take other drivers’ actions personally. They didn’t merge in front of you or fail to signal just to spite you – they probably just made a mistake. Again, just let it go.
- Treat other drivers with respect: How do you want other drivers to treat you? With respect, right? If you make a mistake when driving, you don’t want others to yell at you. You want them to be understanding. Treat other drivers the way you want them to treat you – with respect.
What If I Am Threatened by a Road Rage Driver?
We’ve all had situations where another driver beeps their horn, gives you the one finger salute or yells obscenities at you. While it’s tempting to give it back to them, you should always do you best to keep cool and let it go. Here is what to do if you are approached or threatened by a driver with road rage :
- Don’t react or retaliate
- Avoid making eye contact
- Never get out of your vehicle
- Maintain your focus on the road
- If they are tailgating, change lanes
- Allow them to pass
- In extreme cases, pull over where it is safe and call the police
Usage Based Insurance’s Impact on Aggressive Driving
If you notice that you are prone to driving aggressively, then you may want to give usage based insurance a try. Rather than focusing on not being an aggressive driver, focusing on being a better driver is important. Plus, the car insurance discount for good driving is a great incentive to reduce aggressive driving habits and behaviours.
This combination can help drivers take a more relaxed approach to driving and avoid the potential insurance repercussions of road rage driving such as getting charged for aggressive driving, getting into an accident, accruing demerit points, and seeing your auto insurance rates spike.
Next time you start to feel stressed when driving, take a deep breath, and don’t become another road rage statistic.
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