Road Rage Accidents - Driver Beware

By: Nick Johnson

Road rage, we have all heard the term. Some of us, if we are completely honest, might even be guilty of it ourselves. Honking the horn, making gestures or cutting in front of another driver. All are considered to be examples of road rage. Road rage is seldom out of the news. In a recent incident in California, a man was beaten unconscious with a piece of metal pipe, after a confrontation. The Department of Transportation estimates that nationwide, around 66% of all car accidents are at least partially caused by aggressive driving.

But how do you recognize road rage and what can you do to prevent it? The term road rage was coined by the media, but doctors actually have another name for the condition. Intermittent Explosive Disorder, as it is officially known, affects around 16 million people in the United States on a regular basis.

The symptoms: anger and impatience - often appear in childhood and many sufferers have drug or alcohol problems or other emotional issues which can bring on road rage. If you are the kind of person who could benefit from anger management classes. You may be likely to suffer from road rage.

Men are also far more likely to suffer from road rage than women and to actively seek a confrontation with another driver. Some surveys indicate that American drivers see road rage as a more serious problem than drunk driving.

A comprehensive study was recently undertaken by Autovantage, a Connecticut based auto club, to determine which parts of the country suffered most from road rage. Perhaps not surprisingly, the country's largest cities have the most road rage: Miami, (which was the highest) New York, Boston, Washington DC and Los Angeles.

But surprisingly, the places with the lowest amount of road rage incidents are all fairly large cities too. The survey found that the least aggressive drivers could be found on the roads of Dallas, St Louis, Seattle, Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon. So how can you deal with road rage; by others and yourself?

Firstly, try to drive safely and courteously yourself. Avoid speeding, switching lanes at the last minute and always use your indicator when appropriate. Don't block the passing lane. This is actually a law in 20 states, but should be second nature anyway.

Reduce your own chance of road rage by always allowing enough time to get to your destination. Check local traffic conditions wherever possible. An increase in traffic congestion, which is largely beyond our control, is a contributing factor to a large number of road rage incidents.

Don't drive if you are angry or depressed. Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 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 off.

Try to use the horn sparingly while driving. It should be used to communicate and not "punish". If you are using high beams on headlights, you should switch them off when there is oncoming traffic. Don't listen to music at a volume that might annoy other drivers. Keep other activities to a minimum while driving, such as cellphone use, reading a map or eating and drinking.

If another driver is driving aggressively, try to get out of their way - by slowing down if necessary. If someone behind you is speeding, get out of their lane if you safely can. Don't be stubborn and make a point by staying where you are. Try to avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver.

Efforts are being made on a larger scale, as well. Various state law enforcement agencies are working with both The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to establish a number to call to report aggressive drivers. In the meantime, you are encouraged to report any incidents of road rage to the local police.

Many other states have various programs in place to address the problem. These measures include enforcing current laws more strictly, legislative action and public information campaigns. Campaigns have included press and TV infomercials, flyers and highway billboards.

But ultimately it's up to all of us to help prevent road rage. By recognizing the signs in others and ourselves, we can significantly reduce road rage accidents and perhaps help save a life.

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