What is road rage?
Let's face it: everyone gets
frustrated driving in heavy traffic. Some people, however, let this
frustration boil over into anger. When drivers become so angry at other
drivers that they actually try to retaliate against them, "road rage"
is the result. In Texas, road raging drivers can attempt to get revenge
by driving dangerously, intentionally causing accidents, and even by
acts of violence such as assault and murder. Although there have always
been aggressive drivers out there, road rage became a commonly-used
term in the 1990's, when violent drivers began to be recognized as a
growing societal problem. In 1997, the US House of Representatives
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure even held a hearing on
causes of and possible solutions for the problem of road rage.
According to the Texas Department of Safety, road raging drivers can
be identified by the following behaviors:
- Running stop signs and red lights.
- Speeding, tailgating and weaving between lanes.
- Passing on the right of a vehicle.
- Making inappropriate hand and facial gestures. (DPS Backgrounder:
Road Rage. revised 10/2006).
Of course, many of the behaviors on DPS' list are really just bad
driving. When does simple bad driving become road rage? There's a fine
line between the two, and you cross it when you start thinking "I'm
going to teach that other guy a lesson!" Of course, driving selfishly
because you are impatient or in a hurry is also a bad thing, and it can
lead to accidents as well. However, Texas road rage is even more
dangerous because the angry driver is less concerned about avoiding an
accident and more concerned about punishing the other driver for a
perceived slight. When you are angry and trying to intimidate other
drivers, it's all too easy to feel invincible. However, nobody is
invincible, and using your car to frighten or intimidate other people
is a good way to cause a wreck.
Incidents of Texas road rage increased through the 1990's and remain
a problem today. The latest statistics from DPS are from 2001-they show
that 219 accidents from 2001 were caused by Texas road rage, resulting
in 1 fatality. This was increase of 143.3% from 2000. However, since
accidents involving Texas road rage were not tracked until April of
2000, at least part of the increase is probably attributable to better
reporting. Of course, DPS’ statistics only include incidents where
Texas road rage actually caused an accident. “Close calls” due to road
rage that did not result in an actual collision are not counted. Also,
other Texas road rage-induced acts of violence are hidden in crime
statistics, under headings like "assault." One of the most recent
notable incidents of road rage in Texas occurred in November 2007, when
a Dallas teenager named Frank Vega was shot and killed by 30-year-old
Anthony Gray after the teenager cut Gray off while driving.
Regardless of the statistics, almost anyone who drives has probably
either experienced or engaged in one of the Department of Public
Safety's "road rage behaviors" within the past few weeks. In Texas,
road rage in its many variations has become a common occurrence, as
people's busy, high-stress lifestyles collide with the reality of rush
How to avoid confrontation
The best way to avoid becoming the victim of a road-raging driver is
to try not to provoke them. That's not to say that road rage is
excusable. There really is no excuse for letting your emotions get the
better of you when you are piloting a potentially deadly weapon
composed of at least a ton of steel and highly combustible fuel.
However, when people are polled about road rage, they do mention a
common list of behaviors that are likely to provoke it. Avoid these
behaviors and you can usually avoid confrontations with other drivers.
Most of the behaviors that provoke Texas road rage are driving
behaviors that you really shouldn’t be engaging in anyway. Here is list
of things you can do to that are guaranteed to tick your fellow drivers
1) Cutting other cars off. Make sure to look before your change
lanes or merge!
2) Not letting other cars pass. Sure, you may be going the speed
limit or even a little bit above. However, if you are in the far left
lane and there's someone that wants to go faster, let them by. After
all, it’s their speeding ticket, not yours.
3) Tailgating. Following another car too closely is not an
acceptable way to signal that you want to pass. It just makes people
angry, and it's dangerous. You need at least 2 seconds worth of space
between you and the car in front of you. Otherwise, if the other car
has to slow down suddenly for some reason, you are going to end up
smashing your car into their back end.
4) Mean, rude or crude gestures. If someone cuts you off or does
something else that seems stupid and dangerous, it's tempting to flip
them the bird. However, another driver may see your expression of
frustration as an attempt to pick a fight.
Cooler heads prevail
Do you turn into the
Incredible Hulk when you encounter other people on the road who "just
don't know how to drive?" Do you tailgate other drivers to get them to
move over and let you pass? On the road, drivers that keep their cool
are less likely to get in an accident, and more likely to make it home
safe. The next time you feel like driving aggressively, take a deep
breath and think. Think about the financial consequences of getting in
accident; for example, having to buy a new car or pay higher insurance
rates. Some experts advise to put pictures of your loved ones on the
dashboard where you can see them. Think about what would happen to your
family of you died in accident, and then ask yourself "Is it worth the
risk to get to my destination a few minutes sooner?" Chances are that
it isn't worth it.
Also, with Texas gas prices shooting through the roof, consider
this: Edmunds.com reports that driving less aggressively results in an
average gas savings of 31 percent!
Here are some other strategies that can help you keep your cool on
- Remember that driving is not about winning. Too often, people think
of driving as a contest. Does your interior driving monologue sound
something like this? "I have to get ahead of all of these losers! They
are going too slow! I have more important places to be..." If so, you
need to remember that you are on a road, not a racetrack. Also, you
should realize that driving aggressively probably doesn’t save as much
time as you think it does. For example, if you go 75 miles per hour
instead of 55 miles per hour, even under ideal conditions you’ll save
less than 3 minutes for every 10 miles.
- Don't make driving personal. Remember, the car that’s blocking you
from roaring down the interstate at 90 mph is not "out to get you."
They are probably just elderly and are not comfortable going any
- Say positive things to yourself while driving. Talking to yourself
doesn't mean you're crazy. Everyone does it. Especially if you are
driving alone and there's no one else in the car with you, the things
you say to yourself while driving can be mean, hateful and downright
nasty. Changing your interior monologue from negative to positive can
help diffuse road rage before it starts. Learn to take control over
your emotions. If someone around you is driving poorly, try to think of
a reason why they could be acting that way. Maybe they are having a
family emergency. Maybe they just spilled hot coffee on themselves. You
don't know exactly what's going on in that other car, so tell yourself
to calm down and cut the other person some slack.
- Get help if necessary. If you
can't control you emotions, you might want to invest in an anger
management class. You'll find life is a lot more pleasant once you
learn how to stop yourself from flying off the handle. Or, if you just
need a refresher course on driving defensively, why not sign up for
Driving University's online course? It’s a
convenient and entertaining way to learn the skills you need to react
safely to aggressive driving.
How it starts and ends
Texas road rage usually begins with one of the "triggering
behaviors" listed above. Someone who is stressed or in a hurry gets cut
off, feels they are being followed too closely, or experiences some
other real or perceived "traffic offense." They feel angry and
self-righteous about the incident, and may try to scare or intimidate
the other driver with words, gestures, or aggressive driving. People
who have been caught in a heavy traffic jam are especially prone to
road rage because they are already tense and frustrated. Depending on
the tempers of the drivers involved, Texas road rage can escalate from
there and possibly end in a car crash, a fistfight, or as in the case
of the Dallas teenager, the death of one of the drivers.
If you've inadvertently offended another driver and they are
acting aggressive toward you, the following tips can help you get home
- Give the other person as much room as possible. If you let them go
ahead of you in traffic, they will probably just continue on their way
and leave you alone.
- Don't make eye contact, gesture, nod, or acknowledge the other
driver in any way.
- If the other driver is following you, do not go home. You don't
want someone with these kinds of issues knowing where you live, do you?
Go to someplace populated, like a mall or a shopping center. If they
don't leave and you have a cell phone in the car, call the police. If
you don’t have a cell phone, park close to the entrance of the mall or
Reporting road rage
Texas doesn't have a law against "road rage" per se, but most acts
of aggressive driving are already moving violations. Of course,
physical attacks against other drivers are also covered under existing
laws against assault. To report road rage and/or aggressive driving,
the Texas Department of Transportation website recommends calling 911
if you feel your safety is being threatened by an aggressive driver.
You can also call your local police department to report people who are
driving erratically. It’s important to report road rage on Texas
highways-your phone call could save someone’s life!