A woman who accidentally cut off another driver in Houston found herself literally dodging bullets in an alleged road rage incident, according to a recent news report. The incident happened on a Saturday afternoon, when the 20-year-old woman says the driver that she accidentally cut off drove up next to the driver’s side of her car and fired several shots from either a pellet or a .22-caliber gun. The gunshots damaged the glass on the driver’s side window and the back left window. The vehicle also sustained damage to the trunk.
Fortunately, the young woman in the story above was not hurt in the incident. However, statistics reveal that, in a seven-year time frame, road rage contributed to 218 murders in the United States—about 30 per year—and injuries to 12,610 people. Read on for more information about this dangerous driving condition.
What Is Road Rage?
The terms “road rage” and “aggressive driving” are often used interchangeably. However, although road rage frequently involves aggressive driving tactics, it is an even more serious situation. Here is a look at what both terms actually mean:
- Aggressive driving is the commission of certain traffic offenses, such as tailgating, unsafe lane changes, speeding, or running red lights. This kind of behavior often occurs when drivers are running late and trying to get through traffic. While aggressive driving is responsible for up to 66 percent of the nation’s traffic fatalities, this behavior doesn’t involve an intended target.
- Road rage is the exhibition of aggressive driving behaviors, as well as other behaviors, such as rude gestures, honking, brake-checking other drivers, getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver, deliberately preventing another driver from changing lanes, or even trying to run another vehicle off the road or using a firearm. The term road rage was initially coined by a Los Angeles-area news station that was reporting on a string of shootings on regional freeways. Road rage is distinguished from aggressive driving by the intent to harm other drivers by using the vehicle or another weapon to assault them.
As discovered in a 2016 study on road rage conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 80 percent of drivers experienced significant anger, aggression, or road rage within a one-year period. Some of the most common road rage behaviors and the corresponding number of drivers who had engaged in it include:
- Purposefully tailgating, which 51 percent—about 104 million—of the nation’s drivers admitted to having committed.
- Yelling at another driver, which 47 percent—or around 95 million drivers—have done in the past year.
- Honking to show annoyance or anger, committed by 45 percent, which amounts to 91 million drivers.
- Making angry gestures is a road rage behavior that was committed by around 33 percent of the nation’s drivers, which equates to around 67 million.
- Trying to block another driver from changing lanes—24 percent, or 49 million drivers, have done this in the past year.
- Cutting off another vehicle on purpose is an offense that was committed by around 12 percent, or 24 million drivers, in the past year.
- Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver—4 percent or 7.6 million drivers.
- Purposefully bumping or ramming another vehicle—around 5.7 million drivers, or 3 percent of the country’s driving population, have committed this offense in the past year.
Certain demographic groups are responsible for a higher number of road rage incidents. For example:
- Drivers in the Northeastern region of the United States are more likely to honk or make rude gestures than drivers in other regions.
- Young, male drivers are more likely to exhibit road rage. Males are more than three times more likely than females to get out of the vehicle to confront another driver.
- The most likely forms of road rage exhibited by women include yelling, rude gestures, or tailgating.
- Half of all drivers who are confronted with aggressive driving behaviors admit to retaliating with aggressive behaviors of their own.
- Drivers in the 25 to 39 year old age group are more likely to engage in road rage behaviors, such as tailgating, honking, gesturing, cutting off, or exiting their vehicle to confront another driver.
- Drivers ages 19 to 24 are more likely to attempt to block another driver from changing lanes or to deliberately bump or ram another vehicle.
What Makes Road Rage so Dangerous?
An estimated 37 percent of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm. Aggressive driving is responsible for two-thirds of all traffic fatalities. Road rage increases and escalates aggressive driving incidents. Here are some other important considerations:
- Aggressive drivers are rarely in full control of their vehicles, meaning that they are less likely to be able to stop or avoid a direct collision with others. A driver’s rage qualifies as a distraction. Driving distractions are dangerous on their own, but when mixed with speeding, tailgating, or other aggressive driving behaviors, the consequences can be deadly.
- The retaliatory process that is often involved in road rage incidents can escalate the situation from one in which a single driver is driving recklessly to one where multiple drivers are driving recklessly and going to increasing lengths to punish the other driver. This can result in violence on the roadside or even one driver trying to run another driver off the road. This increases the danger to not only the occupants of the vehicles involved in the incident, but also everyone else on the road at that time.
What Causes Road Rage?
Traffic has increased in recent years and is considered one of the primary causes of aggressive driving, as well as of road rage. However, different issues can lead to drivers reacting out of anger, including:
- The actions of other drivers. One of the most cited sources of annoyance to drivers is other drivers who are talking on their cell phones. Other driving behaviors that may anger those with whom you share the road include failing to use the turn signal, driving slow in the fast lane, failing to check a blind spot before changing lanes, or failing to dim high beams for oncoming traffic. Road rage is often retaliatory. A driver who is cut off may respond by honking, making rude gestures, or worse.
- Stress. Stress at work or home can cause drivers to carry excess emotional baggage when they get behind the wheel. Combine the already-stressed driver with careless or reckless actions of other drivers, and you may have a road rage experience waiting to happen.
- Road rage is also a frequent sign of mental health conditions, such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder, which is defined as a condition in which an individual suffers repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, or violent behavior, or angry verbal outbursts that are grossly out of proportion to the situation.
When Does Someone Have Road Rage?
With nearly 80 percent of drivers reporting times of significant anger while behind the wheel, you might ask yourself if you experienced an example of road rage recently. While there are no steadfast methods of testing drivers for road rage, indicators of road rage include:
- You frequently exhibit aggressive driving tactics because you are in a hurry, such as speeding to get through an intersection before the light changes.
- You feel the need to correct or punish the bad habits of other drivers, such as purposefully tailgating a slow driver, honking your horn to convey annoyance, using your high beams, or yelling and gesturing.
- You tend to take other drivers’ bad habits personally, feeling as though you’ve been deliberately cut off or that the slow driver is intentionally trying to make you late for work.
- You are dealing with a lot of stress or anger in your personal life, have little means for controlling those emotions, and feel fed up before you even get out on the road.
- You often don’t think about other drivers as human beings with lives of their own and the propensity to make mistakes.
- You frequently drive on little sleep or after having consumed alcohol, both of which may hamper your self-control.
If you suspect that you have experienced road rage or you are at risk for engaging in road rage, you can do to avoid triggers by:
- Seeking anger management courses or self-help books that will provide you with appropriate coping skills.
- If you feel angry or stressed out, giving yourself some time to cool off before taking to the roadway.
- Remembering that a motor vehicle is as deadly of a weapon as a firearm is. It is not a toy or a tool that you should use to make a point to other drivers.
- Allowing yourself extra time to reach your destination so that traffic doesn’t make you late. If you are going to be late, try to accept that situation and remember that lateness is not the end of the world.
- Listening to soothing music or an audiobook while driving, or calm yourself through breathing exercises.
- Keeping photos of your loved ones on your dashboard as a visual reminder of the importance of making it home safely.
- Reminding yourself that the behaviors of others aren’t a reflection of you but of the stress that the other driver may be dealing with in his or her own life. Remembering that the other driver is human helps to forgive the mistakes they make behind the wheel.
- Avoiding driving after drinking alcohol or when tired.
- Reminding yourself of the negative health consequences that stem from anger. Giving in to anger releases stress hormones that can overtax your heart and circulatory system.
How You Can Avoid Becoming a Victim of Road Rage
While it is impossible to completely prevent the actions of other drivers on the road, there are some things that you can do to avoid becoming a victim of someone else’s road rage, such as:
- Be a considerate driver. Stay off your phone while driving. Use your turn signals. Allow space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Always check your blind spots before changing lanes.
- Be cautious of your surroundings. Realize that any driver around you could be carrying a weapon or be close to flying into a rage.
- If you’re a victim of someone else’s aggressive driving behaviors, don’t retaliate, as this may escalate the situation. Instead, remind yourself that the other driver is also a human being capable of making mistakes and also an important part of someone’s family. It’s not your job to teach this driver a lesson or make a point about his or her driving skills. That is the job of law enforcement.
- Do not allow another driver to manipulate you into escalating the situation.
- If someone is driving aggressively, put some distance between yourself and that driver’s vehicle. Slow down or change lanes.
- Avoid making eye contact or hand gestures, as this may further inflame the other driver’s rage.
- If you are confronted by an angry driver and cannot divert them from making you a target, call the local police or 911 to report the situation. Be sure to provide the person on the other end of the line with details, including the make and model of the aggressive driver’s vehicle, license number, and the precise location where the incident took place.
- Do NOT pull over and stop your car. This invites the angry driver to pull in behind you and puts your life at risk.
- If the angry driver is following you, do not drive home or to your place of work, as this will give the driver more information about you. Instead, if you must stop, pull into a busy parking lot and yell for help from others nearby.
Were you injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s aggressive driving or road rage? If so, you deserve answers to your legal questions and a full understanding of the options that are available to you. Contact an experienced traffic accident lawyer who offers a free consultation and case review.