9 ways to avoid road rage

Last updated: January 1

Chances are, you have witnessed their frustrations, or experienced them yourself. Being able to identify warning signs of road rage can help curb incidents and ultimately save lives.

get a personalized insurance quote today

A great rate is just a few clicks away.

What is road rage?

The terms road rage and aggressive driving are often used interchangeably, but there is an important distinction between the two, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Aggressive driving is often used as a label for unsafe driving behaviors, like speeding or tailgating, that could compromise people’s safety and lead to a traffic violation. Road rage incidents include driving behavior that can escalate to yelling, angry gestures or violent acts. Outside of raised voices and rude gestures, road rage is a criminal offense.

Aggressive driving and road rage warning signs

No two drivers are the same, so the way they express their frustration might be different. Here are some signs a driver might be upset, according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

  • Tailgating
  • Speeding
  • Cutting other drivers off
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Swerving in and out of heavy traffic
  • Not using signals
  • Preventing other cars from passing or changing lanes
  • Flashing bright headlights
  • Passing a stopped school bus

When aggressive driving escalates into road rage, you might see a driver:

  • Throw objects at a vehicle
  • Scream at other people or make angry gestures
  • Ram another vehicle
  • Sideswipe another vehicle
  • Force another vehicle off the road

Ways to avoid road rage in your car

Between other people not paying attention and heavy traffic, driving can be frustrating. But it’s important to stay in control of your emotions behind the wheel. Here are some tips to help you avoid succumbing to aggressive behaviors.

1. Give yourself time to get where you’re going

Before you ever get behind the wheel, create realistic expectations about your travel. If you need to be somewhere at a specific time, make sure you factor in expected traffic or possible delays, advises DefensiveDriving.org. Planning and setting proper expectations can reduce your future stress and frustration levels.

2. Don’t drive while experiencing intense emotion

If you had a frustrating day at work or got in a fight with a dear friend, you might not be in the best headspace to get behind the wheel, according to DefensiveDriving.org. If you’re already angry or upset, don’t drive. Put off non-essential trips until you calm down. If you have something scheduled that you can’t miss, ask a friend or family member to drive, or consider calling a rideshare service or taking public transit.

3. Build positive driving habits

Don’t speed through traffic or weave between vehicles. Avoid cutting other drivers off and making rude gestures or remarks. The Federal Highway Administration says these behaviors are some of the most dangerous.

4. Only use your horn if necessary

Car horns are just one small hand movement away, but they’re primarily designed for emergency use. Lay off the horn and show them a little grace, says the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

5. Be understanding of other drivers

Before you allow your frustration to build, try putting yourself in the other driver’s seat. Chances are, you’ve accidentally sat at a green light for a few seconds or forgotten to signal ahead of a lane change. If you remind yourself that other drivers aren’t perfect or out to get you, it can help prevent you from responding aggressively, according to Aceable.

Ways to avoid road rage from other drivers

You can only control your own behavior and driving decisions, but you can drive defensively and take specific actions to keep yourself safe from other angry drivers. Here are some best tips for when someone around you is acting recklessly.

1. Remove yourself from the situation

The California DMV stresses it’s important to avoid drivers exhibiting dangerous behavior however you can. Dangerous behavior includes tailgating, aggressive braking or swerving. Create distance between yourself and the aggressive driver by getting over to let them pass or slowing down and watching them speed off into the distance.

2. Ignore them if they’re being rude

Ignore angry gestures, advises theTexas Department of Insurance. You don’t want to escalate the situation, and you never know what could set someone off and make them become violent.

3. Call for help if necessary

If you’re an angry driver’s target, call 911 immediately and drive to a public location or your nearest police station, says the Seattle Times. Even if an aggressive driver is only targeting one vehicle, they’re a threat to everyone on the road. Calling the police helps ensure everyone’s safety.

4. Apologize after a mistake

No driver is perfect, so always apologize when you make a mistake. If you inadvertently proceed without the right of way, or get too close to the car in front of you, a friendly wave and smile can help keep everyone calm, said Andy Pilgrim (Traffic Safety Education Foundation) in a CNN interview.

How does road rage impact my insurance?

Your auto insurance company can’t read your mind, so they won’t know if you’re angry when you’re cruising around in your car. But aggressive driving behaviors can lead to traffic citations and accidents that cause your rates to increase.

For example, speeding tickets lead to a national average rate increase of 24%, according to Forbes, so, think twice before zooming in and out of traffic. Car accidents are even costlier when it’s time to pay your premium. The national average rate increases after causing an accident are 45% for property damage and 47% for bodily injury, according to an analysis by Forbes. Your best bet is to keep defensive driving practices in mind to avoid problems during your commute. This could help your rates low – and, more importantly, keep you, your passengers and other drivers, safe on the road.