We all know road rage as aggression by a motorist toward another motorist over some negative driving incident such as being cut off in traffic. However, it isn't always solely the act of bad driving that causes the aggressive behavior. It can be the result of pent up anger over a bad work day, a stressful relationship, someone's world falling apart - whatever. The anger tends to manifest itself toward another individual who is a stranger simply because the frustration of being seemingly "accosted" in traffic by them is just too much to take, on top of everything else.
Although some forms of road rage actually result in injury or death, most aggressive driving tactics are contained to tailgaiting, headlight flashing, obscene gestures, verbal abuse, and deliberately obstructing other vehicles. Nevertheless, these forms of road rage can cause serious injury and should be avoided at all cost.
Most of the time the cause of an incident resulting in road rage is a simple misunderstanding between motorists. A momentary error in judgment by one driver may be seen as aggressive or poor driving by another and cause tempers to flare. The situation may escalate from there to tailgaiting or obscene gestures and horn honking, but if you are the one attracting the aggressive behavior, the best thing to do is ignore the other driver as much as possible. Let them get ahead of you or somehow get out of their way to diffuse the situation. Don't look at the driver.
Some road rage incidents are the result of overcrowding on the freeways. We are territorial creatures with "our" space extending to our vehicles and the empty space around them. We work at keeping a set distance between our car and the one in front of us. So when someone cuts in front of us into that space which is "ours", we tend to get defensive and possibly over-react. Usually horn honking or flashing lights is enough to satisfy our need to protect our territory and assert dominance, but occasionally it goes a step further if we feel that the full depth of our feelings is not communicated through these gestures.
This is when the situation can become very dangerous. An offended driver may feel the need to tailgate to within inches of the offending motorist, creating the potential for a fatal accident. If it is not possible for the vehicles to separate and go their own ways in order to diffuse the situation, the aggression can escalate, especially if both parties engage in the aggressive behavior. This can result in physical confrontations and even death.
The main cause of road rage seems to be connected to the mood of the drivers in the incident. Someone who is stressed, late for an appointment or work, angry or frustrated already will be much more apt to fly off the handle than someone who has plenty of time, is having a great day, has lots of patience and forgiveness and realizes that there is no perfect driver on the road.
Therefore, it is clear that the best way to avoid being the victim of road rage is to drive safely, make good decisions and not give in to someone else's anger.
The best way to avoid being the aggressor is to have the right mindset before getting behind the wheel of any vehicle. Patience, forgiveness, plenty of time, a good night's sleep, acceptance of others' faults, and realizing that everyone makes mistakes when driving are necessary attributes to have when you take that vehicle out on the road. The ability to breathe deeply and slowly during a stressful incident also helps diffuse the anger rising up from within.
Be safe out there and remember - giving in to road rage is not worth the potential fatal end result.
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