How Safer, Courteous Driving Could Save You from Road Rage — and Injury
As our highways get busier and busier and consumer lifestyles get faster and faster, Georgia road rage incidents are rocketing.
Already this year we’ve seen violence and even alleged murder on our roads after angry skirmishes between frustrated drivers.
In fact, Atlanta has been named fourth-worst city in the nation for road rage by auto club AutoVantage. And incidents elsewhere suggest it’s a statewide problem. Aggressive drivers cause two thirds of all deaths on our roads. Road Rage incidents involving firearms have doubled from 2014-2016.
Every one of us is at risk of involvement in road rage, either making someone else boil over or being angered ourselves by aggressive, careless or poor drivers.
What Causes Road Rage?
Driving behaviors that spark road rage are pinpointed in Georgia’s traffic code 40-6-397, which makes it an offense to drive with “intent to annoy, harass, molest, intimidate, injure or obstruct another person” when:
- Violating traffic lane markings
- Ignoring signals
- Changing lanes
- Slowing or stopping
- Impeding traffic flows
- Driving recklessly
Many Georgia drivers don’t know about this misdemeanor law but, even if they do, road rage incidents continue.
So, what’s the best way to avoid road rage? Simple: Stay calm. And apologize if you made a mistake.
OK, it’s not that simple. But there are many things you can do to take the heat out of a bad driving situation.
Top Tips to Prevent Road Rage
The best way to avoid rage is to read ahead on the road, monitoring both your own driving and looking out for trouble ahead.
We all make mistakes behind the wheel from time to time. Oftentimes, we develop bad habits we’re not even aware of — like tailgating, especially when we’re in a hurry and become frustrated that other drivers don’t share our sense of urgency.
Look at that list of traffic code infringements above and try to ensure you don’t break any of them. Also:
- Allow plenty of time for your journey, so you don’t feel rushed or drive irresponsibly.
- Keep your eyes on the road and avoid distractions caused by others in the car or by cell phones.
- If you see another car behaving erratically, stay clear of it.
- Don’t drive when you’re angry, upset or tired.
- Park with other drivers in mind. Don’t block them in and don’t take up more than one parking space.
- When opening a door, be careful that it doesn’t hit someone or another vehicle.
- Don’t play loud music in your car. It can not only bother other drivers but also increase your heart rate and cause agitation. On the other hand, if you’re feeling tense, especially in congestion, play soft music that you enjoy — and breathe deeply.
- If you’re not disabled, don’t park in a disabled space.
- Don’t stop in a road way to talk to another driver or a pedestrian.
- If you’re a slow driver, look for opportunities for others to pass you — and don’t drive in the fast lane on freeways and other multi-lane highways.
- When you make a mistake or misjudgment, signal an apology to the other driver, using open hand gestures, and shaking your head while mouthing the word “sorry”. That last bit is important. Shaking your head by itself could be misinterpreted!
- If you think the other driver’s at fault, don’t use obscene gestures. It’s the biggest cause of road rage violence.
- It takes two to tango. If you’re on the receiving end of someone else’s anger, don’t argue with them and don’t raise your voice — even if you disagree with their judgment that you’re at fault.
- If you’re being pursued by another driver, drive to a public place or a police station.
Sometimes you just have to go against your natural instincts to react in a potential road rage situation. The best way to handle road rage is to stay cool and not react to provocation. Resist the temptation to honk your horn when someone annoys you — use it sparingly only to alert others, in other words, when you’re doing them a favor.
Can a Passenger Be Guilty of Road Rage?
We’re not legal experts (and we don’t provide legal advice) but, yes, it’s highly possible that a passenger could become involved in a road rage related incident.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration definition of road rage includes “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”.
Even if, as a passenger, you’re not responsible for actually causing an incident, you could become liable for causing property damage or bodily injury if the incident becomes physical or you use a weapon
Am I Insured Against Road Rage?
Probably not directly. Your liability insurance covers accidents, not intentional incidents.
But there are one or two scenarios where you may be covered — for instance if another driver forces you off the road, causing you to crash, and you have uninsured motorist coverage, you’ll likely be protected.
However, if two drivers get into a road rage fight, auto insurance won’t provide coverage. But that doesn’t prevent one or other party (or both) from taking civil action for compensation.
(Once more, this is not legal advice. You would need to speak to an attorney about your rights to civil action).
Where to Get More Information
Research suggests that virtually every one of us experiences feelings of anger at some point when we’re driving. Learning to control your emotions is not easy and takes practice.
You can test your “roadrageousness” in this simple quiz. http://www.aipsnews.com/rurrageous.htm
But remember this: If you have others with you when your anger boils over, they will be making a judgment about you. If your passengers are children, you will be setting a poor example of acceptable behavior.
Some of the tips we’ve given here come from the Georgia Department of Public Safety. More tips and information can be found in the Department’s downloadable road rage fact sheet. Find it here: http://tinyurl.com/GA-road-rage
And if you want to know more about insurance aspects of road range or have any other questions about auto insurance, please get in touch with us at Grimes Insurance.