Do you know the difference between “Road Rage” and “Aggressive Driving?”  I thought the two were about the same, but here’s what the AARP Driver Safety Program says: 

AGGRESSIVE DRIVING – Usually involves traffic offenses such as following too closely, unsafe lane changes, speeding, failure to signal intent to change lanes, and other forms of negligent or inconsiderate driving, such as yelling, cursing, repeated blowing of the horn, rude or obscene gestures, etc. 

ROAD RAGE – Occurs when a traffic incident escalates into a far more serious situation.  For example, a person becomes so angry that he or she overreacts and responds with some type of violence, such as getting out of the vehicle and threatening you with bodily harm.  These acts may range from verbal abuse to physical abuse, or even to an assault with a weapon or motor vehicle (such as using their car to run you off the road.) 

Studies show that eighty-five per cent of angry drivers claim they would not have escalated the situation if they had gotten some sort of apology from the other driver.  Even if you are not at fault, apologize in order not to provoke an angry driver further.  Be courteous and avoid cutting others off, and stay with the traffic flow.  You know that you were in the right, but sometimes it pays to a little contrite, as you won’t gain anything from a confrontation with an irritated and angry person. 

There are probably not too many of us who can honestly say that something hasn’t happened as we were driving along the freeway or local street that ignited our tempers  to the point of triggering such an emotion, especially aggressive driving.  However, I have never felt such anger that I would want to ram someone with my car, (with the exception of the infuriating experience with my first brand new car, and a lady ran a stop sign. I thought she was going to hit me.  Later, I felt ashamed that I could let a material item make me feel so mad. 

Road rage is a horrible thing to have happen, especially if there are children in the vehicle.  Parents and grandparents must hold their tempers at all times and set a good example for their youngsters.  If you drive that way, chances are they will, too.  Here are some tips from AARP that will help you avoid aggressive drivers and help prevent road rage behavior: 

  • Leave early in order to arrive at your destination on time.  Then you aren’t rushed.
  • Avoid eye contact with drivers trying to challenge you. (Keep your eyes on the road.)
  • Don’t block the passing lane.
  • Don’t abuse your vehicle’s horn.
  • Don’t make or return obscene gestures or words.
  • Use turn signals when changing lanes.
  • Don’t stop in the road to chat with someone.
  • Don’t “tailgate” or follow too closely.
  • Be courteous and remain calm.  Avoid conflict.
  • Don’t get out of your vehicle to argue or challenge another motorist or pedestrian. 

If you feel there is a chance of road rage behavior, and you are unable to avoid a confrontation, drive your vehicle to the nearest lighted public area (a shopping center, mall, hospital, convenience store, police or fire station), and call for assistance from store owners, the police, or security personnel or other people before getting out of your vehicle.  If you can get their license number, give that to law enforcement.  You may save someone else’s life.  Get out of harm’s way as soon as you can. 

Remember, drive defensively, and stay safe!