Woman in car displaying road rage

What Causes Road Rage (and How to Prevent It!)

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Road rage can account for more than 50-60% of all traffic accidents.

Does this surprise you?

It didn’t for me.

Coming from a large populated city, I would be a part of road rage at LEAST once a day, whether I was the victim or the person initiating it.

Yep, that’s right.  I’m not perfect.

I am disappointed too.

However, it has been years since I have been angry on the road or reciprocated road rage.

Let me fill you in on some secrets on what was causing it, and then used that to prevent it.


What Causes Road Rage and How to Prevent It Pinterest Image


The Epiphany

Can you imagine what it is like to be married to the most amazing man in the world, and then he turns into the Hulk while driving, and only while driving?

Enter my husband.

How can this amazing man get so angry at others and have others become aggressive towards us?

It was at the point where I started driving to most places because I was scared his road rage was going to hurt us.

Then something amazing happened almost overnight.  My husband started doing things differently when driving and our drives started becoming peaceful and relaxing.

Although on rare occasions, he would slip back to the Hulk.

It was then I began to notice a pattern and started experimenting with it myself, while I was driving.

And found what caused road rage and what prevented it.


What Causes Your Road Rage?

I can go into the normal on the surface causes like every other article on the internet, like aggressive driving, tailgating,  cutting people off, etc.

But I don’t believe that is the true cause of road rage.  It goes much deeper than that.

Trust me, those are all common things that happen before road rage, but how come some of us react by calling drivers “a**holes” and want revenge, and others seem perfectly content to keep driving?

Here is another question:  Have you ever noticed that when you are in a hurry, that everyone on the road seems to be moving slower or gets in your way more?

No, there isn’t a conspiracy against you.  (Although I can understand why many of us feel that way!)

It is all about state of mind and how you view the world in that moment.

You perceive other people’s actions based on how YOU feel.  You could think a driver was a jerk, but on a different day, someone could do the exact same thing, and you wouldn’t think anything of it.

Why is that?

Are you lacking sleep, just heard bad news, in a bad mood, have anxiety, stressed, hungry, think everyone in the world is horrible, or late?

Then you aren’t in the right mindset to react to things in a calm manner.

And in all honesty, shouldn’t be driving.

In fact, your patience will be so thin when you have one of these factors, that you can snap at any moment, if the right moment comes along.  Then you can easily shift the blame to someone else and feel like you aren’t the problem.

But that is a long list.  Aren’t most Americans suffering from one of those at any given time?

I am going to answer that with my next statistic:  Over 80% of Americans are involved in road rage behaviors at least once a year, according to AAA.

I hope that answered your question.


Signs You May Contribute to Road Rage

One of the biggest surprises I have noticed, is that people who feel road rage most often don’t think they are doing anything wrong!

They constantly complain about others on the road, but are actually the ones who initiate it.

What’s also mildly amusing, is the fact when I am in the car with someone who is being aggressive and cussing about another driver, we will drive by the other car and I will see that driver isn’t even affected.

They are talking with their family, or tapping along to the radio, etc. We are over here having a fit, and we aren’t even registering on their radar.

Here are driving behaviors that put you at risk for road rage:

  1.  You are less than a car length for every 10mph, while driving behind someone
  2.  You think of the left lane as “the fast lane”
    • To clarify this, the left lane is for passing only.  It is not a fast lane.  If someone is in the left lane and is obviously trying to pass someone, that shouldn’t bother you at all.  If it does, see number 3.
  3. You never go anywhere near the speed limit
  4. You get into the left lane and stay there, but don’t ever pass anyone
  5. You cut people off
  6. You can’t wait 2 seconds for people to move their foot from the brake to the gas before you blast your horn
  7. You talk or text on your phone while driving
  8. You drive on the shoulder to get around traffic because you don’t feel like waiting
  9. You had warning 4 miles back the right lane was closed, but decide to drive all the way up to the cones, instead of merging when you were first warned.
  10. You don’t speed up to the flow of the highway when getting on
  11. You speed up so people can’t get in front of you, if they have their blinker on
  12. You don’t follow right of way rules


I’m sure there are more that I missed.

But the point is, if you engage in any of these behaviors, you are the one who is causing a problem for everyone else, causing traffic jams, and are more likely to fly off the handle at the slightest misstep from other drivers..

So you may be contributing to road rage behaviors and not even realize it.


Preventing Your Road Rage

Here are some ways you can prevent road rage:

  • Eat before you leave (even a small snack if you are on your way to dinner)
  • Leave in plenty of time to get where you are going
  • Stay as far away from other vehicles as you can
    • This may seem like a no-brainer, but I threw this in to remind you the less “crowded” you feel, the less likely you will let other’s actions control you.
  • Reduce your stress
  • Do deep breathing exercises to reduce anxiety
  • Listen to audiobooks or calming music
  • Don’t drive when you are already in a bad mood
  • Get plenty of sleep

And here are the two biggies that I want to highlight on their own because that’s how huge they are:

1. Use Your Cruise Control

When you are on the highway, and not stuck in major traffic, use your cruise control!

Aaron and I found when we did this, it was the single biggest contributor to feeling less rushed and more peaceful when driving.

Get on the highway, stay in the right lane (unless you are passing), and set your cruise control.  This gives you a feel of control, because your speed isn’t affected by what others are doing.  In turn, you will start to feel more relaxed.

You will also start to find out that when you see aggressive driving in others, you won’t feel as affected or insulted by it and want to strike back.  Something clicks that if you stop using the cruise control in that moment, you know you are making a bad choice, because you know you will lose your sense of relaxation.

It will also feel like a hassle to do anything other than keep the cruise control on.


One of the biggest things that happens in road rage is we forget the people in the other cars are PEOPLE.

They have feelings, heartaches, struggles, bad days, etc.

That person you are angry at for cutting you off and honking at you?  They may have just gotten word their mother was in the hospital dying, and just want to get to her in time.

The person who seems to love being in your blind spot?  They may not even realize they are doing it!  It is 100% natural to automatically speed up to the flow of traffic, so when you start speeding past them, they unconsciously speed up too.  It’s not to make you mad, it’s a natural reaction!

The person you think is going too slow, even though they are doing the speed limit?  They may have had a horrible accident in which they almost lost their life, and is trying to be more careful. Ask yourself why you are mad at them for doing the speed limit.

Start looking at these people as someone’s mother, father, daughter, grandparent, son, etc.  Start seeing THEM.  Imagine how you would feel if someone was being aggressive on the road with your daughter or son.

Would you like it?  Of course not.  So why are you doing it to someone else’s child?

So it’s important to start seeing them as PEOPLE, not just drivers.  Know they have struggles, mean something to someone, and are just trying to live every day the best way they know how, just like you.


How to Avoid Being A Road Rage Victim

So what if you do all that stuff, but someone seems to be targeting you on the road?

First, setting the cruise control and obeying all traffic laws will help eliminate most instances.  It did for us.

However, we still get the occasional person who tailgates us and flashes their lights and starts driving erratically, while we are trying to pass someone.  But it doesn’t bother us as much anymore, because we choose not to engage.

We understand, that person’s impatience and inability to follow traffic laws probably stems from a deeper issue that has nothing to do with us.

And knowing that, gives us some control over our actions.

So forgive them for being human.

It’s important not to increase your speed or decrease it, because either way can give YOU anxiety or make you seem like you are engaging, which can escalate things.

If you are passing someone, keep passing them and avoid looking in your rear view mirror at the person behind you.  Turn on your blinker to let the person behind you know that you have every intention of getting over after you pass the car.  And get over as soon as it is clear.

Keep doing you.  Go the speed you want to go.  Keep being in the right lane.  Enjoy your music or audiobook.

And if you keep doing you, are being considerate, and the person is still seeming to come after you, it is time to call the police for assistance.



The Power Of Blinkers

Blinkers can be a powerful thing.

I’m not saying this as a joke, but I want to tell you something I learned about them.

I am from St. Louis, where NOBODY uses blinkers.

When I moved to Indiana, people here use them all the time.

So what’s the difference?

STL is always in a bigger rush, so they have a mindset that it will put them behind if they let someone over.  But the biggest reason is because if you put your blinker on, people will speed up so you can’t get over.

So if you want to get over, you pretty much have to jump in front of whoever you can.

And I know STL isn’t the only place that does that.

Something that helped me feel less overwhelmed when driving, and taking care of that issue, is using my blinker wisely, besides the ways I have already mentioned in this article.

When I feel I am approaching someone I might eventually need to pass, and find someone in the left lane, I automatically assume they will speed up as soon as I put my blinker on.

So I put my blinker on earlier than I normally would, to give them time to race past me.  Then I can seamlessly shift into the left lane in plenty of time to pass, without reducing my speed, or being forced to brake, due to waiting for someone to pass me.

When I learned to put my blinker on earlier, it completely changed my driving experience.


Don’t Worry, Be Happy

One thing to remember when on the road, is the world doesn’t adapt to you.

You have to adapt to the world.

If you spend your life waiting for others to do what you expect them to do, or do what you do, you will never be in control of your own life or even your own driving experience.

Which means you will always find an excuse to be angry or unhappy.

So understand that you can adapt your behaviors to give yourself that control.

Stop trying to rush everywhere.  Alabama sings it best:  “I’m in a hurry to get things done, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.  All I really gotta do is live and die, but I’m in a hurry and don’t know why”. And their song is true.

Ultimately, condition yourself to react differently. And see everyone else as PEOPLE, just like you.

And once you do that, your driving experience becomes a whole lot nicer.


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4 thoughts on “What Causes Road Rage (and How to Prevent It!)”

  1. Joe @ Mini Riches

    This is really a great post and a lot more folks should read it! It’s overly concerning when we’re driving down the road with a van full of children, and then someone gets right on our bumper. If we have to hit our brakes, they’re going into the back of our van right into our children!

    1. Yes! That is a scary situation. I have had similar thoughts when someone is tailgating me. It really heightens my anxiety, feeling like they may slam into the back of me. I used to engage by doing a small swerve to make them think I was the one going to cause a wreck (which does work, but is not recommended because someone could report you for drunk driving or CID), but now I just put on my blinker, and get out of their way as soon as I can, and try not to pay attention to them in my review mirror.

  2. Road rage is something I used to experience quite a bit. It would happen even if I left in plenty of time to get to where I was going. I stopped having a lot of road rage once I started thinking about the other drivers and what they might be going through in their day. I still have it every once in a while but not nearly as much.

    1. Yes! Something similar happened to me. When you start seeing them as people who are dealing with life’s problems, you feel a lot less resentful towards them.

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