Here comes Santa Claus, only he’s driving a big red monster truck and he’s riding your tail going 70mph. Quick, what do you do when he swerves around you and gives you a one-finger salute before he cuts you off? If you’re like half of all American drivers, you respond in kind. You honk, return the obscene gesture, scream at him or speed up to get back in front of him. That’s exactly the sort of insane behavior that can cause an accident. At bare minimum, that will wreak havoc with your car insurance. In the worst-case scenario you could become one of the estimated 1,500 people injured or killed in the U.S. each year as a result of aggressive driving.
Road rage happens all year long, but the holidays seem to bring out the worst in drivers. In fact, a report posted on Progressive Insurance’s website claims that four in 10 Americans blame road rage on holiday stress, citing everything from too much to do to crowded shopping malls, bills and dinner with in-laws. Now add a prolonged recession, high unemployment and uncertainty about the future, and we could be looking at the perfect road rage storm this year.
Here are some steps you can take to keep a potentially dangerous situation from escalating, avoid confrontation and, we hope, keep your driving record so squeaky clean you can qualify for a safe driver discount next time you’re looking for car insurance quotes.
- Stay focused on the road. Distractions like talking on your cell phone, shuffling your MP3 player or eating fast food can cause you to do something that irritates an aggressive driver.
- Follow the Golden Rule and treat other drivers (yes, even the boneheads) as you’d like to be treated. Don’t tailgate or cut in front of other cars. Use your turn signals, and remember to turn them off when your lane change or turn is completed. Don’t honk out of anger. Courtesy goes a long way toward defusing potential rage.
- Drive at the appropriate speed for the weather and traffic volume. Don’t speed, but don’t poke along in the fast lanes, either.
- If possible, plan your road travel during non-peak hours when roads are less crowded and tempers less likely to flair.
- Never engage with aggressive drivers. Do what you can to avoid them, even if it means pulling over or taking an early off-ramp. If you are confronted, don’t let yourself get sucked into the argument over who is right or wrong. Be the first to say you’re sorry with an appropriate nod or hand wave and an apologetic smile.
- If you think you’re in real danger from an aggressive driver, call the police or drive to a crowded place for help.