Road rage: Are you part of the problem or the solution?

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If you spend any time on the streets and highways around Austin, you have encountered road rage. Maybe you've displayed some yourself. Mental health experts say it doesn't take much for some to reach the breaking point.

What triggers rage can be difficult to nail down but there is no disputing that it is commonplace. According to one study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 80 percent of drivers responding to a survey admitted to being significantly angry, aggressive or expressing rage while behind the wheel at least once in the previous 12 months. Another survey found that aggressive driving contributed to more than half of fatal crashes between 2003 and 2007.

Rage and vehicle accidents

Some may suggest that aggressive driving and road rage are different things. While distinctions can be drawn, the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration offers that the key difference is one of severity. Road rage is illegal driving that endangers others or property. Aggressive driving doesn't, but is still illegal.

Regardless of the shape it takes, aggressiveness behind the wheel represents recklessness and negligence that leads to crashes that cause serious or fatal injuries.

Are you rage-prone or a rage prompter?

Most experts agree that countering this problem begins by gauging our own propensity for road rage. For example, if you regularly speed or try to "beat the light;" hug the bumpers of vehicles in front of you and flash your lights; frequently use your horn; or yell at or gesture obscenely toward other drivers; you could be rage susceptible.

Alternatively, you could trigger someone else's rage if you:

  • Succumb to distraction from your phone or otherwise;
  • Fail to shift from high to low beams for oncoming vehicles;
  • Make sudden moves on the road without signaling intent;
  • Cut off another driver by changing lanes without checking your blind spot.

Ways to respond

So, what's the best way to react to road rage reality? SafeMotorist.com suggests the following:

  • Don't engage: Regardless of fault, avoid eye contact with the other driver.
  • Remain considerate: Commit yourself to being more attentive to safe driving rules.

Righteous indignation might spark you to aggression. While understandable, it could lead to a horrible outcome for you and the other driver when getting to your destination safely is all you really want.

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