Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Mar 11, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • Road rage is defined by aggressive, dangerous behavior behind the wheel like speeding, tailgating, and brake checking
  • If you have trouble dealing with aggressive feelings, try using mindfulness techniques to keep calm and give yourself enough time to avoid feeling rushed
  • The consequences of road rage include fines, increased insurance prices, the suspension of your license, and even jail time

You’re running late for an appointment, and a slow driver makes you miss a light. Or someone cuts you off, then gestures like the incident was your fault. Maybe you’re simply tired, and everything is irritating you.

Road rage is something we all feel from time to time. It’s a natural response to the everyday irritations on the road. However, road rage becomes a problem when drivers act on those feelings of frustration.

There can be serious consequences when you engage in road rage behavior. From needing high-risk car insurance to tickets and even jail time, the reasons for avoiding road rage while driving are crucial.

To make sure you keep yourself safe, you should understand road rage’s definition. Read below to learn more.

What is road rage?

While you might not know the technical definition of road rage, you’ve probably experienced it if you’ve ever driven on a public road.

Road rage is defined by aggressive actions by a driver meant to either intimidate someone else or vent feelings of frustration. That might not sound so bad, but road rage can have tragic consequences. While there are numerous ways people can express anger while driving, the most common road rage examples are listed below.

  • Tailgating
  • Ignoring stop signs or red lights
  • Cutting other vehicles off
  • Excessive speeding
  • Brake checking
  • Blocking other drivers from changing lanes
  • Erratic acceleration
  • Yelling obscenities or insults and making rude gestures
  • Dangerous weaving between traffic
  • Honking or flashing lights aggressively
  • Exiting a vehicle to intimidate another driver
  • Pursuing drivers
  • Purposefully hitting or swiping cars or people
  • Assault or murder

All of these behaviors are considered reckless, but some carry criminal charges. For example, brake checking, which is the action of slamming on your brakes when someone is following you closely behind you, can lead to jail time.

What causes road rage?

Road rage comes from many sources. While there may not be a road rage personality, people who tend to be more aggressive are also more likely to engage in road rage behaviors.

You don’t need to be particularly aggressive to feel road rage, however. Listed below are common instigators of road rage that almost everyone has experienced.

  • Running late
  • Traffic jams
  • Thoughtlessness for others
  • Indifference for traffic laws
  • The anonymity of being behind the wheel

No matter how frustrated a driver is, there’s no excuse for engaging in road rage behavior. Engaging in road rage is illegal because the results are often tragic and threaten everyone on the road.

What are the consequences of road rage?

What might seem like harmless venting, road rage can have serious consequences. If you find yourself frequently giving in to feelings of anger on the road, consider the following consequences you might face.

  • Fines. You’ll find yourself with steep penalties if you’re charged with reckless driving. You’ll also have to pay for damages you cause to people and property.
  • Time at court. People often have to sit in front of a judge after reckless behavior, especially if someone was hurt.
  • Higher insurance rates. Car insurance companies do not like insuring risky drivers because they have a higher chance of paying claims. You’ll make up for that risk by paying more.
  • Jail or prison time. If you are a repeat offender or seriously injure or kill someone, you might have to spend time behind bars.
  • Damage to your vehicle. Remember, insurance won’t pay for damage you intentionally cause, and insurance companies consider reckless driving damage self-inflicted.
  • Physical harm. That includes you, your passengers, and other drivers. Severe injuries are not hard to cause in an accident, which can have life-altering implications.
  • Death. You could get yourself, your passengers, and other drivers killed. One moment of anger is not worth your life or anyone else’s.

As you can see, there are serious consequences for road rage. It’s one thing to talk about why road rage is dangerous, but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. To get a clearer vision of why road rage is so destructive, look at the following stats.

  • Incidents with firearms are increasing in frequency, with either an injury or murder in a road rage incident occurring every 18 hours.
  • 37% of road rage incidents include a gun.
  • Road rage cost over 200 people their lives in a seven-year period and caused another 12,000 injuries.
  • When targeted by an enraged driver, 50% of all drivers escalate the situation by engaging in road rage. 2% of targeted drivers try to enact revenge on another drive with brake checking, collisions, or tailgating.
  • Aggressive driving behaviors like reckless speeding are the cause of 66% of all traffic deaths.

Today, experts think the rise in road rage and gun violence incidents is tied to COVID-19. With gas prices (and everything else) rising, Americans are under more stress than usual. People struggling to cope with their frustration are venting more and more on their fellow drivers.

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Tips to Avoid Causing Road Rage

It can be intimidating when you think of your chance to be involved in a road rage incident. You can’t control how others behave, but you can avoid antagonizing them further. When you’re the target of an enraged driver, keep the following techniques in mind.

  • Avoid eye contact with aggressive drivers. If you make eye contact, it might enrage them further because they see it as a challenge.
  • Don’t rise to the bait of rude gestures thrown your way by returning them.
  • Let active road rage drivers pass you. Even if they change their target from you to someone else, they could cause accidents with other drivers.
  • Distance yourself from them to give yourself plenty of space to avoid brake checking.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. If you follow the flow of traffic, don’t break traffic laws, and avoid cutting others off, you probably won’t have problems.
  • If you’re being tailgated, move over as soon as you safely can.

Remember that road rage psychology is all about escalation. Everything you do that makes another driver angrier increases the chance of an accident or tragedy. Although it’s hard to stay calm when an aggressive driver targets you, it’s best to let them move on.

Road rage leads to accidents, injuries, and sometimes, death. While you might think you can teach another driver a lesson, you should do everything you can to avoid road rage.

How to Avoid Your Own Road Rage

Recognizing your own negative emotions is challenging, but de-escalating your own road rage is well worth the effort. Before you find yourself caught up in the passion of road rage, there are a few things you can do to avoid it altogether.

One of the biggest reasons people report causing their road rage is feeling rushed. It happens to everyone — you’re late to work, there’s an emergency at home, or you just need to get somewhere quickly.

Avoid that situation by giving yourself ample time to make it to your destination. You can’t always avoid feeling rushed, but the less time you spend running late, the less time you’ll spend upset that you’re running late.

If you’re a person with a temper that runs a little hot, try playing calming music. You know your tastes better than anyone else, but soothing music with slower beats tends to calm people down. Skip jams that pump you up, like those you play when you work out.

Another simple solution? Get enough sleep. Tired people are more likely to act aggressively and get irritated quicker. You lower your chances of causing an accident just by getting a good night’s sleep.

A last technique is one of the simplest: never get behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. Aside from the fact that you’re much more likely to kill yourself or another driver, alcohol gives you a sense of false courage and heightened aggressiveness.

Road rage is a crime because it’s so dangerous. It can affect you for years if you get a reckless driving charge on your record after engaging in road rage. It can stay on your driving record, affect your insurance rates, and might classify you as a high-risk driver, meaning you’ll need costly high-risk car insurance.

Find Affordable Insurance After Road Rage

While everyone feels a sense of road rage at some point when they get behind the wheel, letting those feelings take over is irresponsible and can lead to serious consequences. It’s also dangerous — the person you harass might retaliate against you with a gun.

Besides the legal ramifications, you’ll face higher insurance rates for years if you’re charged with a road rage incident. If you continue to engage in reckless behavior, you could lose your insurance (and your license).

Now that you have a road rage definition, you know how to avoid it. If you have multiple road rage incidents in your record, you can save yourself money by comparing quotes with high-risk insurance companies.