When someone has road rage, everyone loses — including their fellow drivers. It can be distressing seeing (and possibly hearing) someone get so angry, not knowing how far they’ll take it.
So what can you do to stay both safe and calm as a nearby driver spirals? Here’s what to know.
Get out of the way, if possible
Being stuck in slow-moving or standstill traffic may be what prompted this person’s road rage, in which case, you may be unable to distance yourself from them. But if you’re in a situation where you’re near (or the target of) someone with road rage and have the opportunity to turn down another street and get away from them, do it.
Put your pride aside
When someone is engaging with you in an aggressive and/or disrespectful way, it can be easy to stoop to their level and match their behaviour. But even if they’re the ones in the wrong, now’s not the time to pull up next to them, challenge them by speeding, respond to any of their gestures, or do anything else that might further antagonize them.
Don’t make eye contact
Avoid making eye contact with the enraged driver. This may escalate an already-tense situation, possibly leading to a confrontation. Just keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.
Be empathetic towards the driver
People who experience road rage are typically going through other things in their lives, in addition to whatever happened (or they think happened) on the road. So clinical psychologist Lakeasha Sullivan, PhD says it’s best to approach the situation with empathy for the other driver.
“Assume that this person’s rage is situational and not indicative of a character flaw,” Sullivan tells Driving. “Underneath anger is usually sadness. So, imagine that they just received some of the worst news in their life and they don’t know how to cope with it. Wish them the best and move on.”