Road Rage: How to avoid problems when patience wears thin

You wouldn’t bump into someone for strolling too slowly through the vegetable aisle, would you? Or flick your middle finger if a shopping cart cuts in front of you on the way to the potato chips?

And yet people are misbehaving just like that on America’s roads.

People are honking, tailgating and even bumping into each other when patience wears thin on crowded roads. So what do you do? How you can protect yourself against a road-rage phenomenon that causes fear and fatalities on the highway.

Here are some tips that might help:

Did you know?

  • More than half of all deadly crashes (56 percent) are caused by some form of aggressive driving, whether it be speeding, recklessness or failure to yield the right of way.
  • Not surprisingly, the most aggressive drivers tend to be young men, ages 18-24. But did you know that people who chat on cell phones are more likely to be aggressive than those who don’t. And drivers with children are typically more aggressive than those without children.
  • More motorists worry about road rage than about drunk driving (42 percent versus 35 percent), according to a Gallup poll.
  • Three out of four drivers rank aggressive driving as one of the most serious traffic safety problems, according to a recent AAA Foundation survey. However, nearly half of those respondents admitted that they violated the speed limit by more than 15 mph in the month before the survey. A substantial number also reported honking at drivers, tailgating and accelerating to beat traffic lights.

How to protect yourself and others:

Attitude is everything: Driving is not a competitive sport. How much is “won” by cutting ahead of another car? Stay calm and try to forget about time if you’re running late.

Trouble takes two: It’s hard to get into a fight alone. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a confrontation.

Remember your turn signal: Make sure drivers aren’t surprised by your maneuvers on the road. It may sound simple, but 57 percent of drivers don’t regularly use their signals, according to a recent survey.

Don’t cut in line: Cutting off drivers is a sure-fire way to raise tensions around you. Give yourself plenty of room when changing lanes.

Keep up the pace: Slow driving in the left lane is asking for trouble. Regardless of the speed you are traveling, move to the right lane if someone wants to pass you.

No tailgating: Not only does tailgating make it difficult for you to respond to an emergency, but it can annoy other drivers. Don’t do it.

Avoid the middle finger: Don’t make obscene gestures. Avoid any visible sign that you may be angry.

Allow some room: If someone cuts you off, slow down and give them some room. Their aggression may escalate if you respond in kind.

Say sorry: If you make a mistake while driving, try to apologize with an appropriate gesture.

If all else fails: If you think that you are in serious danger, get help. Call the police or drive to a heavily populated area. Do not drive home and do not get out of the car until you feel safe.

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