Road rage: what you need to do to protect yourself

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:

Have you ever been a recipient of “road rage”? It can happen to the best of us. A lane change that cuts someone off can turn your regular commute into a dangerous situation in an instant. I try to find the good in people, but, when someone goes nuts because they have to yield to another driver, it becomes difficult to find anything good during a profanity-laced explosion. Sure, maybe they had a rough morning and are just letting off some steam, but maybe they have some deep-seated psychological disturbance and you just triggered a psychotic rage. The foundation of a richer life lies in feeling safe and secure, and I’m going to show you how to protect yourself if you are ever involved in a road rage incident.

Many years ago, I experienced someone’s road rage, and this event has had a powerful impact on me ever since. While approaching my exit on the freeway one day, I signaled and changed lanes. There wasn’t a lot of room but certainly enough for me to squeeze in and not cause any problem. Of course, that was my interpretation. Let’s just say the other driver had a whole different perspective. He became enraged, so much so that he followed me off my exit and for several more miles all the way to school. He was yelling and cursing the entire way. At a stoplight he pulled beside me and quite literally threatened my life. Fortunately, I’ve had years of automobile defensive maneuvering training (thank you, “Dukes of Hazard,” “Starsky & Hutch” and “Knight Rider”) and was able to cross a couple of lanes and leave him stuck at the light.

But if that happened to you today, what would you do? Here are several tips to keep in mind the next time you encounter a maniac on the road.

1. Appease. Whether it’s your fault or not, show some grace and class by giving them a friendly wave (ideally with all five fingers) to acknowledge the situation. Most of the time this works just fine to diffuse the situation.

2. Apologize. If said maniac driver won’t let it go, consider offering a sincere apology and yet another wave of the hand. Of course, never get out of your car.

3. Call police. If you sense that the driver is on a downward spiral (e.g., yelling, cursing, threatening), tell the driver you are calling the police.

4. Disengage. If calling the police doesn’t get them to stop following or harassing you, stop all communication with them. Roll up the windows, look straight ahead and drive to the nearest police or fire station.

Simple enough, but there’s something else you need to do to protect yourself and your family. Maybe I’ve seen “Silence of the Lambs” or “Criminal Minds” too many times, but if you are the proverbial package that causes the postal worker to snap, you certainly wouldn’t want to lead the psycho driver to your home or to your children’s school, would you? Well that may be precisely what you are doing.

Most people have turned their car into their personal billboard — exposing far too many personal details to strangers on the street. Have a look at the cars on the road, and you’ll often see bumper stickers or license plate frames announcing where their kids go to school, their church, clubs they belong to or hobbies that they have. Some go so far as to display little stick figure stickers of their family — dogs included. If someone was motivated, they wouldn’t have to be a detective to figure out how to find you again. It’s lovely that your kid was student of the month at their school, but keep the bumper sticker off your car. Same goes for all of the other stickers, logos and decals that could reveal personal information.

So, strip your car, drive carefully and follow the tips above to survive your next road-rage incident.

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(Road rage image by Green_Mamba, CC 2.0)

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