You’re driving home from work one Friday evening. The freeway’s a mess as usual but at least your moving. You take your eyes off the road for just a second to check the time and when you look back you realize that the car in front of you has braked. You’re following a bit too close and are forced to make a split second decision stomp on the brake pedal or swerve into the left lane which for the moment is open. You pull the wheel hard left and manage to squeeze into the lane, avoiding the Prius in front of you, but piss off the driver of the SUV you pulled in front of. He’s riding your bumper, laying on the horn and flipping you off! What happens next is anybodies guess. Just another case of California freeway road rage.
Road rage is alive and thriving on California highways. Since the inception of the term in the late 80’s the incidence of road rage has increased dramatically. In the most recent incident a 27 year old man in Temecula, driving at high speed, deliberately swerved his vehicle into a lane occupied by 3 motorcycles striking one of them and causing it to crash. The man had been following the motorcyclist since an earlier road rage altercation with them a few miles away. The rider and his passengers sustained moderate injuries. Ironically the entire incident occurred in front of two motorcycle officers who were monitoring traffic speed. The driver was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and hauled off to jail. Most road rage cases don’t end that cleanly.
In a recent Del Mar incident a woman exiting an underground parking garage had stopped to pay at an exit booth when a man in the car behind her started honking his horn. He then got out of his newer silver Mercedes, and began cursing at the woman and kicked the rear of her car. He then got back into his car and rammed the woman’s sending it into a center median. The man described as in his 50’s, left the scene with moderate front end damage.
In West Covina a group of young men in an SUV shot out the windows of another motorist’s car during a road rage incident recently. The victim and the young men became involved in a dispute on the 10 freeway. Both vehicles exited at Grand Avenue, and while the victim was stopped at a red light a passenger got out of the SUV, approached the victim’s car and shot out both rear passenger windows and the rear windshield. He then jumped back in the SUV and sped away. The victim was not injured.
These three incidents which occurred over the past week are just the tip of the road rage iceberg. Road rage incidents occur daily. Nearly any day of the week you can find an article or a brief post about a road rage incident. In addition to those reported, there are dozens of incidents that go unreported. The good driver advice of “watch out for the other guy” has taken on a whole new meaning.
Road rage is not just a west coast problem. A recent study to determine which parts of the country suffered most from road rage found that the country’s largest cities have the most road rage: Miami was the highest, followed by New York, Boston, Washington DC and Los Angeles. The Department of Transportation estimates that nationwide, around 66% of all car accidents are at least partially caused by aggressive driving/road rage. Road rage can range from something as simple as Honking the horn, flashing your lights or making gestures to tail-gating, cutting in front of another driver or in extreme cases using your vehicle as a deadly weapon, or actually physical altercations. There have been fist fights, beatings and shootings. Drivers have been seriously injured and even killed as a result of road rage.
What we call road rage is known in the medical community as Intermittent Explosive Disorder. The key symptoms are anger and impatience. It affects around 16 million people in the United States on a regular basis. Many American drivers see road rage as a more serious problem than drunk driving. There is no telling when road rage will appear but an increase in traffic congestion is a contributing factor to a large number of road rage incidents. Other factors include driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, depression and of course anger. Some surveys suggest that around 80% of motorists are angry while driving. However, even those drivers who are normally mild-mannered can succumb to road rage, if there is something to trigger it.
So be careful out there, always give yourself enough time to get to your destination and when possible check traffic conditions beforehand. Doing so just might make difference in avoiding aggressive drivers or becoming one.
Here are a few tips from on how to avoid aggressive driving.
- Avoid cutting drivers off and apologize if you do so
- Avoid tailgating and honking the horn
- Avoid making inappropriate or offensive gestures
- Steer clear of other aggressive drivers
- Avoid eye contact
- Seek help if you’re being followed by driving to a safe/crowded location or by dialing 911
Adjust Your Attitude
- Leave yourself enough time rather than trying to make good time
- Put yourself in the other driver’s shoes
- Take a deep breath and remember escalating a situation will only make things worse.