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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

How to Avoid Road Rage Incidents

Some recent news articles concerning road rage incidents have pointed out how people can draw themselves into a road rage incident and some of the terrible mistakes that drivers make when they try to retaliate against an aggressive driver. A recent incident in Florida involved an enraged driver who started shooting and another driver, believing he had to defend himself, shooting back, resulting in a pitched gun battle on an interstate highway while other drivers swerved to get out of the way. Not only was the “road-rager” arrested but the other driver, who felt justified in shooting back, was surprised when he was arrested as well.

In previous articles, we discussed the difference between aggressive driving and road rage and the fact that people often use the terms interchangeably or get them confused. Road rage occurs when a driver snaps and tries to physically punish another driver. In this article we are going to discuss how to avoid road rage incidents and what to do if you find yourself the target of an enraged driver.
Incidents of road rage have grown to epidemic proportions and a quick Google search turns up a surprising number of road rage incidents that happened within the past 24 hours, several of them involving gunfire. Current economic conditions may be adding to the problem.

In 2006, the American Psychiatric Association gave road rage its own diagnosis, referring to it as Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). IED is characterized by a degree of aggressiveness during the episode that is grossly out of proportion to any influencing events; it is a form of temporary insanity, in which the enraged individual wants to hurt other individuals or to destroy property. IED is more commonly found in young men and it is estimated that one in fourteen individuals are capable of experiencing the disorder. The bottom line is that, when you are dealing with someone in a road rage incident, you are not dealing with someone who is rational or reasonable.

How can you avoid being the victim of a road rage incident? There are a number of steps you can take; the key is to avoid, as much as possible, irritating another driver.

  • Pay attention to the road ahead and be aware of the drivers around you. If you see an aggressive driver approaching in your rear view mirror, get out of his way. Move into another lane or give him plenty of space to get around you.

  • Giving full attention to your driving means staying off of cell phones. Cell phone users tend to drive slower and are slower to regain speed after stopping at a red light.

  • Stay in the right hand lane unless you are passing another driver. Keep the left lane clear for passing traffic. If you are on a two-lane road and traffic is building up behind you, pull over and allow faster traffic to pass.

  • Use turn signals and slow in time so other drivers will have time to react to your brake lights.

  • Remember that you can’t take the right-of-way, you can only give it up to someone else. If someone else insists on taking the right-of-way, give it to them even if you legally have the right-of-way.

  • Most importantly, be courteous to other drivers even if they aren’t courteous in return.

Retaliating against other drivers by honking your horn, flashing your lights, making gestures, or trying to keep another driver from passing can trigger a traffic game, which can lead to a road rage incident. You may have experienced a traffic game in the past. One example is when a driver slows down in response to a tailgater, only to have the tailgater pass the driver and slow down as "punishment." In this situation, the tailgater is trying to teach the first driver a lesson. If the first driver tries to pass and becomes involved in the game, the two drivers could very quickly find themselves in a life or death struggle.

If you find yourself in this type of situation, do whatever it takes to get out, including getting off the road if necessary. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn in to a traffic game. You are never in such a hurry that it is worth becoming the victim of road rage.

One mistake people make that often results in serious injury or death is to stop to argue with the other driver. Remember that this person may have temporarily lost all touch with reality and may react in a way that is totally out of proportion to the incident.

If you encounter an aggressive or enraged driver, remember the following tips:

  • Never try to retaliate; don’t blow your horn or make any gestures. Let them go! You can't change their behavior and only law enforcement has the authority to correct their behavior.

  • Never stop to confront an aggressive driver.

  • Never get out of your vehicle if an aggressive driver leaves her vehicle. If you are trapped in traffic or at a red light, do not open your door or roll down your window if the other driver gets out and approaches you. If you have a cell phone, call 911 and ask for help. Let the other driver see you calling. Honk your horn loudly to summon help.

Another aspect of Intermittent Explosive Disorder is that, after the event, the individuals usually feel upset, embarrassed, and genuinely remorseful but, by that time, it is usually too late. If you are confronted by an aggressive driver, you must put safety first.

Additional Articles on Driver Courtesy: Forget It and Drive On

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