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how to avoid aggressive drivers

and defuse road rage

You know all about road rage. You even have a calming routine, calling up your Mozart playlist to help defuse your own driving frustrations. But it's not quite as easy to handle road rage when it's happening to the driver behind you.

Defusing road rage

Here are a few tips on how to handle yourself around an angry, aggressive, or bullying driver.

Avoid inflammatory gestures

When cut off by a driver, our first impulse is often to honk the horn, flash the high beams, or make a certain hand gesture. But road rage isn't an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" type of thing, and these gestures, however gratifying, can inflame an already-heated situation.

Save honking, flashing your lights, and hand gestures for situations when you need to alert other drivers to dangers ahead.

Open a passing lane if you're on a multi-lane highway

Seems simple, but under pressure from a bullying driver, you may be tempted to slow down or speed up to get the aggressor off your back. In doing so, though, you could accidentally block a passing lane and further aggravate the raging driver.

Our advice? Put on your right blinker to let the driver know you'll move when it's safe. This could prevent the road rager from furiously passing you on the right.

Since not everyone here uses a "please move over, I'm going fast" signal like drivers on Germany's Autobahn, keep an eye on the rear-view for impatient drivers behind you. If the driver's flashing the high beams and honking, exit the lane as soon as you safely can.

Build some bumper-to-bumper breathing room

We tend to fill open space when we're driving in heavy traffic. But should the gridlock become too much, your neighboring driver may get belligerent and take liberties with your car's personal space. (Yes, cars have personal space.)

Maintaining a few extra feet in traffic jams could be the buffer you need to make a quick escape.

Don't make eye contact

As many bullying drivers operate on feelings of anger or personal frustration, any perceived challenge to their superiority can set them off. And making eye contact is a big one. So resist the urge to shoot a smart-alecky look at an offending driver. You never really know who's in that car next to you.

Stay calm

The last thing you want to do is get in on the road rage. Keeping a healthy perspective (you won't get home much sooner when you're angry) and understanding how to defuse your own road rage can help you avoid an accident.

Did you know that tightly gripping the steering wheel actually constricts blood flow and causes headaches? Or that playing music is proven to relieve stress?

Let that parking space go

If you've patiently waited for that primo parking spot only to have it stolen at the last second, let it slide. Stating your case rationally tends to fall on flat ears. Give that driver the benefit of the doubt (maybe they didn't see you!) and find another space.

Driving around road ragers

We hope these tips can help you channel your inner Zen and play the grown-up when you're surrounded by angry drivers.

If you're at your wit's end or worried about a certain raging driver, pull over and call 911 or your state's aggressive driving hotline. And if you do get into an accident with an aggressive driver, don't hesitate to call the police to the scene.

Related links

How road rage could affect your car insurance rates
Find out how staying calm and avoiding accidents can help keep your insurance costs down.

Motorcycle mayhem
Road-rage incidents involving a motorcycle are much more dangerous to riders. Check out our tips about staying safe on 2 wheels.