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Over The River & Through The Traffic

As the holidays greet us again, Reece and Janet and millions of others will take to the highways to meet with family and friends for Thanksgiving. Naturally, they all want to arrive safely.

Like you, Reece is a careful driver and knows he’ll be maneuvering through a sea of motorists, which may include aggressive drivers, distracted drivers, impaired drivers, even raging drivers. Not pleasant to contemplate.

While most of us aren’t on the receiving end of actual road rage, we do encounter aggressive drivers—tailgating, speeding, cutting someone off.

Road rage is a term coined by a Los Angeles news station after a spate of freeway shootings in the area. It’s defined as drivers “[committing] moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property.”

Just to keep you alert and aware, here are a few statistics.

1. Aggressive driving accounts for 66% of traffic fatalities.
2. Half of those on the receiving end of aggressive driving admit to engaging instead of letting it go.
3. Firearms are involved in 37% of aggressive driving incidents.
4. During a seven-year period, road rage caused 218 murders and 12,610 injuries. *
5. And, your fellow highway drivers (86%) think it’s safe to drive at least ten miles per hour above the speed limit.**

However, by engaging in the following behaviors, we ourselves could be guilty of causing road rage in others:

1. Deliberately slowing down when someone is tailgating, or by being the tailgater.
2. Refusing to let a speeder pass or staying in the left lane.
3. Switching lanes without signaling or checking that you aren’t cutting someone off.
4. Using or checking your phone frequently or engaging in other distracted driving.
5. Failing to dim your lights for approaching traffic.
6. Honking, flashing your lights, or brake checking.

The most common aggressive responses toward annoying drivers include yelling inside the car (44.4%), honking horns in anger (34.1%), and making rude gestures (21.5%).**

While aggressive driving is considered a traffic offense, responding with road rage is a criminal charge.

If you are prone to road rage, make sure to get plenty of rest, leave earlier than necessary, avoid alcohol, and play soothing music.

If you are a target of road rage, it’s up to you to control the situation. Change lanes if you have a tailgater, pull off the road to let speeders pass, stay behind angry drivers, don’t return rude gestures or yelling. Breathe deeply and maintain self-discipline by remembering that you alone have control over your actions.

Humanize yourself by waving or mouthing, I’m sorry. Ragers don’t view their offender as a person, says Dr. Barry Markel, psychotherapist in Park Ridge, IL

And, lastly, what about your passengers? What effect does cursing, yelling, and honking have on them? To paraphrase author and TV personality Dr. Phil McGraw, “How much fun are you to ride with?”

Get there safely, have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and enjoy a second piece of pie!

Constance Watkins
*SafeMotorist.com, American Safety Council
**thezebra.com/road rage. The Zebra is an insurance comparison site.

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