While the subject of road rage is often grist for comedians’ monologues, it’s no laughing matter if you’re on the receiving end of it. 

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once over a one-year period. The AAA estimates that over half of fatal crashes studied during a five-year period studied could be attributed to a driver’s aggressive behavior.

One report claims that road rage at this time of the year rises by 200 percent due to holiday-related stress.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as, “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” There’s even a medical term for those who vent their fury upon other motorists, “intermittent explosive disorder,” and it’s estimated to affect as many as 16 million Americans, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

A new study conducted by the insurance website The Zebra determined that, not surprisingly, the most common aggressive road rage behavior is honking a vehicle’s horn to express anger or frustration, with 59 percent of respondents admitting to the practice. Other prevalent hostile actions include changing lanes without signaling (45 percent), and yelling/cursing at another driver or pedestrian (42 percent). 

Tailgating was found to make motorists the angriest at 44 percent, followed by distracted driving (42 percent), getting cut off (33 percent), driving too slow (30 percent), and not using turn signals (28 percent).

Seven percent of motorists queried admit to having left their vehicles to confront another driver in the past year, with six percent saying they’ve gotten into a physical confrontation. Perhaps adding fuel to the proverbial fire, The Zebra found that 46 percent of motorists admit to keeping a weapon in their car for personal protection (a knife, pepper spray, a club, etc), with seven percent saying they pack a gun while driving.

While 14 states have passed laws against “aggressive driving,” only one, California, has a bona fide road rage bill on the books. The financial consequences of getting caught driving recklessly can be debilitating. In addition to paying fines and court costs, The Zebra found that motorists being cited for reckless driving will see their annual insurance premiums skyrocket by an average of 70 percent ($1,034), and as much as 390 percent ($4,220) in some states. 

Experts say the best way to respond when another driver seems to be venting his or her anger in your direction is not to react at all. If another driver cuts you off or is otherwise driving aggressively, slow down and give them room to pass. Do not respond with obscene gestures or equally hostile actions. If you inadvertently cut off another driver, try to apologize by making a suitable hand gesture.

If you feel you’re in danger because of another driver’s actions, use a cell phone to call police or drive to a police station if there’s one within proximity to get law enforcement involved. Never exit your vehicle to confront the other person if you’re at a traffic signal or are otherwise stopped.

Let’s make this a noteworthy holiday season for all the right reasons.

Sources: Forbes, The Zebra

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