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Road Rage

What is Road Rage?

Road rage is an individual’s reaction to a driving situation that results in retaliation and dangerous behavior.  Road rage is more than anger; when a driver reaches a level of anger at which he or she begins to react physically, it often culminates in a road rage, a criminal offense.  The behavior can be as minor as a threat or it can escalate to the actual harm or death of the driver who becomes the target of an individual’s road rage.

It is unclear what spurs drivers to exhibit road rage.  It might be learned behavior or it could be an innate reaction to the stressors of the road, thereby predisposing only certain individuals to road rage.  Whatever the cause, we often see otherwise seemingly laid-back individuals lash out irrationally when provoked on the road.


Are Incidents of Virginia Road Rage Increasing?

While there is evidence of an increase in aggressive driving over the past 10 years, road rage has likely been affecting drivers since the advent of motor vehicles; however, with increased media coverage and reports on road rage easily accessible on the internet, it seems that it is ever increasing when, in reality, the information is more prevalent and easily attained.  

There is evidence, though, that our increased technology and growing population contribute to a growing trend of aggressive driving that might result in road rage.  We are sharing the road with a multitude of drivers which can contribute to our stress behind-the-wheel.

There is also evidence to support that road rage is more likely to occur at certain times of the day and week, such as during rush-hour and on Fridays, and that drinking/drugging while driving also incite road rage.
In an effort to combat road rage, Virginia is only 1 of 2 States that require Virginia Driver’s Education courses to address road rage specifically.


How Do You Avoid a Confrontation?

According to the Virginia DMV, there are several things a driver can do to avoid a confrontation with a driver who is exhibiting signs of road rage:

  • Do not stop or pull over to confront an aggressive or enraged driver
  • Do nothing to aggravate the situation with eye contact, gestures or anything else
  • Use #77 to report aggressive driving or suspicion of road rage
  • Do not drive home – drive to a police station or heavily populated area
  • Avoid erratic drivers
  • Report a road-rage incident from a distance


Cooler Heads Do Prevail!

If you recognize a driver who is exhibiting signs of road rage, do not provoke that driver.  While the instinct might be to defend yourself or to retaliate, this will only exasperate the situation and could result in violence.
If you recognize that you exhibit or have exhibited road rage, it is best to strike at it preemptively.  If you will be on the road, the Virginia DMV makes the following recommendations:

  • Allow plenty of time to get to your destination
  • Plan trips to avoid rush hours
  • Improve the comfort in your vehicle
  • Understand that you cannot control the traffic
  • Don't drive when you are angry
  • Listen to soothing music when you drive
  • Listen to traffic and weather reports to learn of potential delays and hazards


How Does Road Rage Start and End?

Road rage might begin as aggressive driving which is characterized by speeding, lane-weaving and the cutting-off of other drivers.  The driver might be visibly upset and giving hand-gestures or yelling.  If this driver is provoked, this situation can easily escalate to road rage.  When it does, this driver may use his car as a weapon or do things to intentionally cause harm to another driver.  You might even see this driver attempt to pull-over or force-off-of-the-road the driver who has become the object of his anger.  If the driver who is exhibiting road rage is successful, it is likely that they will physically cause harm to the driver who has pulled over, if they have not already caused harm by driving them off of the road.  

The severity of the outcome will determine the fines, violations and criminal charges that will be brought against the driver who is exhibiting road rage.


Reporting Road Rage

If you witness road rage, it is advisable to pull over at a distance and notify the proper authorities.  Do not approach the driver of either vehicle.  If you are the object of another driver’s road rage, drive to a heavily populated area or a police station to potentially bring the situation to a safe close.  Do not exit your vehicle until the proper authorities have arrived on the scene. As soon as it is safe, report the driver to the proper authorities, even if all of the characteristics of road rage were not quite exhibited.  According to the Virginia DMV, the proper procedure to follow is to dial #77 on your cellular phone and be prepared to give a description of the driver's vehicle and the license number, location and direction of travel. Remember that the driver shares the road with many people everyday and, while you may have averted disaster, someone else will become the object of his rage at another time.

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