How To Deal With Road Rage

The smartest fighter is the one who avoids the fight in the first place. When it comes to handling “road rage” incidents, the same rule holds. It’s just not worth making your point about a bad lane change when the consequences could escalate into a shoulder shootout.

Here are some tips to help avoid getting drawn into a road rage situation in the first place – and for defusing tension if one develops despite your best intentions:

First and foremost, be a courteous driver

That means not cutting into line (or cutting anyone off) as well as allowing other drivers to merge. Also, it’s good policy to let let faster-moving cars to get by you – even if they are going over the posted speed limit. Even if they’re speeding and you’re doing the limit, it’s courteous as well as safer for you and everyone else to simply yield, move right, and let faster-moving cars pass.

Never tailgate

If the car ahead slows down abruptly, you could and probably will rear-end him. Even if there’s no accident, riding close to another car’s bumper is a hostile act that can quickly get out of hand. Always give the car ahead at least a car length’s space; preferably two (or even three). Crowding other drivers will only make them nervous – or angry. You might tempt someone to slam on their brakes – to “teach you a lesson.” If there’s an accident, you will probably be ticketed for following too closely.

Do not glare at other drivers or make rude gestures

You have no way of knowing whether the other motorist you’re making faces at is near the end of his rope on this particular day – and just looking for someone to go off on. He may have just been fired, or his wife flew the coop – and he’s not about to take any guff from you. Even if another driver does something obnoxious, it’s better just to let it go. If you are a woman or have kids with you, avoiding angry, potentially violent male road-ragers is especially crucial.

Avoid mean-spirited actions

For example, darting in to an open parking spot that another driver was obviously waiting for. This is a great way to get a tire iron shampoo. Also: Don’t block driveways or double park your car. And obviously, using a handicapped spot if you’re not actually handicapped is a major breach of etiquette.

In the event you do something dumb behind the wheel – but not deliberately aggressive – such as inadvertently pulling out in front of someone you didn’t see and almost causing an accident, or jump your turn at a four-way intersection because you weren’t paying attention – the thing to do is immediately signal your apologies to other motorists with a smile and “oops, I’m sorry!” hand gesture than lets them know you know you made a mistake. Don’t bully on through and act as though nothing is wrong. Do the right thing and the problem almost always goes away.

How to deal with another driver’s road rage

If you find yourself in a situation where another motorist is clearly angry with you – rightly or not – and seems intent on following you, or acting aggressively, don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the game.

  • If a guy rolls down his window and starts cursing at you, do not respond.
  • Keep your window rolled up – and avoid eye contact.
  • Get moving – and get away – as soon as you can.
  • Never, ever get out of your car to “discuss” things with another motorist. We live in a crazy age, and you could find yourself looking down the barrel of a gun. Or facing some loon with a baseball bat.
  • Just drive on. In the event you get followed, don’t drive home – or stop your car.
  • Find a cop and get his attention – or use your cell phone to dial 911.
  • If possible, let your harasser see you talking on the phone; that’s often enough to make him break off.
  • If no cop is around and you are frightened by someone attempting to follow you, stay on well-traveled roads. Avoid pulling off onto a side street.
  • If you can find a busy shopping center parking lot or similar public place where people are milling about – go there and see if the person follows you. If he does, honk your horn repeatedly to attract the attention of passers-by and – hopefully – security patrols. It’s not likely you pursuer will stick with you.
  • If you can, jot down the plate number of the car, as well as the make, model and color.
  • File a police report – if the encounter seemed serious enough to warrant that.

But whatever you do, don’t be tempted to play “Mad Max.” Leave that to Mel Gibson. Arrive home – and arrive alive.

This is a guest post by automotive columnist Eric Peters, check him out on the web at

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11 Responses to “How To Deal With Road Rage”

  1. Stephen says:

    Really good advice!

  2. Rassi says:

    I had a trucker who was overtaken with road rage following me one time. I tried to follow the suggestions here, but this guy was really crazy. I drove to a shopping center, and he followed me in his 18-wheeler. I started driving up and down the aisles of the parking lot in my car, and he tried to follow me!!! When he finally realized he couldn't keep up with his big rig, he parked the rig, jumped out of the cab, and sprinted after me on foot! I put the pedal to the metal and got out of there before he could get back to his rig and follow me again. I lost him in the traffic.

    I would have reported him to his trucking company but the only markings on his truck were the ICC number. There had been one of those "Call 1-800 about my driving" stickers, but it had been deliberately spray-painted over so you couldn't read it, probably because of what a hot-head he was…

  3. michael downs says:

    I beg to differ with your interpretation of a safe following distance. I teach CDL driving to all walks of life. The accepted distance to keep between vehicles is counted in seconds, since reaction times vary, two seconds is the accepted safe spacing between vehicles at any speed. Trucks and larger vehicles must keep one second for each ten feet of vehicle length.
    With only 3 car lengths at 60 MPH, you would have to focus all your attention on the brake lights of the vehicle in front of you, or you would hit him if he hit his brakes when you looked down at your speedometer. At 55MPH a vehicle travels at 60 feet per second. At higher speeds exponentialy further.

  4. Greg B says:

    This is exactly why I created iPLATEu, a free, mobile to mobile social platform for motorists. It lets you deal with road rage in a much safer, civilized manner. Instead of going out of your way to make eye contact with someone that cut you off or whatever, and inciting the rage further by threatening/cursing at this person, you can send them an anonymous voice message using iPLATEu. All you need to know is their license plate number! This gives you a safe outlet, a way to really express your feelings and emotions without getting into a dangerous altercation. So go ahead, cleanse your emotions, get it off your chest and say whatever is on your mind. Their cell phone will ring, playback your message, and they in turn, can bounce a message right back to you. But since you could both be miles apart and nobody knows each other, the danger is eliminated. Plus all these messages are available online so that we all could listen in, share and comment on them. There is also a reputation system online as well, so we can all see and hear about the most hated drivers on the road. Please check it out and sign up. You'll stay safe and feel much better.

  5. Jeff says:

    Rassi…just wondering, if you were in front of him, how would you know the 1-800 number was spray-painted over…or if he even had a sticker in the first place?

  6. Chuck -- Md Activist says:

    I have on occasion, (believe it or not) lapsed and done something that offended another driver. If practical, I will go out of my way to get the driver's attention and visually apologize. Without fail, the drivers have responded in a positive manner. Situation defused.

  7. adam says:

    It's funny how the writer only refers to males when talking about people with road rage. Hey author, what should I do if a FEMALE rolls down HER window and curses at me? lol
    "Driver" or "motorist" would have made a better fit.

  8. phil says:

    what should I do if the car parked next to me slams the door into my car? should I just ignore it?

    what should I do if someone darts into the parking spot I've been waiting for a long time? do I just drive away and find another parking spot?


  9. Angela says:

    I need to vent. I am so fed up with being courteous to other drivers only to be screwed over by them. Am I invisible??? I was at the stop sign first, so why did you go? There are cars parked on your side of the two way street, so why didn't you wait a whole three seconds for me to pass? Why do you turn off the sidestreet and pull out in front of me when you can clearly see I would have to slow down to let you in? Why do you get in front of me on the highway, when you know I'm driving faster than you? Your light turned red a long time ago, so why do you keep driving? All these things 'you' do just makes my blood boil. Is this road rage, or is this just frustration with the inconsiderate people around me? I don't act out towards you in any way, but I really hate you. I follow the rules, so why can't you? Do I have to teach EVERYBODY how to drive? Thanks for letting me vent. I feel better now, until I have to drive anywhere again…

  10. Ron says:

    The MOST important thing that writer Eric Peters hints at in "courteous driver" is JUST OBEY THE SIGN that says "Slower Traffic Keep Right". It is the cause of about 75% of Road Rage. It's not your job to be the Traffic Monitor.

    If the Highway Patrol/Troopers would write citations for people holding up traffic in the Fast Lane, there would be:
    Much less Road Rage,
    Much less tailgating, therefore fewer accidents,
    Much less cutting-off the other innocent drivers on the road(creating more Rage), trying to get around Mr. Arrogant Traffic Monitor, who has 50 car-lengths of empty space in front of him,
    Much less lane changes overall(Mr Traffic Monitor versus the TWENTY lane changes by the cars behind him).

    The Plus for Mr. Traffic Monitor: You get to laugh at More speeding tickets for the speeders. It's a Win-Win.

    One other thing not mention by the writer-MOVE OUT INTO THE INTERSECTION when making a Left Turn, so others can make the light cycle. It's not just about YOU.

    poster Jeff-Notice how Rassi has no clue to why the trucker was angry?

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