We've all experienced road rage in one form or another. You might have been on the receiving end of another driver's anger for some perceived slight, watched two cars swerving around and brake-checking each other in traffic, or sat in the passenger seat as your vehicle's driver blared the horn repeatedly at some inconsiderate jerk. You might have even been having a bad day and taken it out on someone who cut you off or flipped you the bird.

The road rage phenomenon has been studied extensively, and while it may seem like little more than a harmless tantrum, it can quickly escalate into car crashes, fistfights, and gunshots. Research has shown that there is a “direct linear increase” in road rage incidences as temperature rises, so it's especially relevant as we enter spring and summer.

You never know if the guy you just honked at might be an ax-wielding nutcase ready to lash out. So, it's important to understand the demographics and warning signs of road rage, and have a plan to de-escalate or escape the situation. The following infographic shows some of the physiological and emotional effects of road rage — click here for a full-size version.

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While the last portion of this infographic includes some good info on how to calm down and avoid being guilty of road rage, it doesn't really address how to deal with it when you're on the receiving end. Here are some tips to consider the next time you become a victim of road rage:

  • If behavior becomes increasingly aggressive or dangerous, call 911 and report the incident. Alerting the authorities provides a safety net in case the situation gets worse.
  • Do not pull over or stop to engage the other driver. Disengage as soon as possible.
  • Leave space around your vehicle to pull around the other driver, or to brake quickly if the driver tries to brake-check you. Avoid getting boxed-in at all costs.
  • If the driver follows you, go to a police station, fire department, or populous and well-lit public area. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is lead the driver to your home or workplace.
  • If you're forced to stop, and the driver approaches your vehicle, stay calm. Even if you're not at fault, be willing to tell the other driver what he or she wants to hear (including apologies) to de-escalate the situation. Having the moral high ground is useless if you're dead.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself and your loved ones by any means necessary if the situation requires it.

For more info on road rage, check out this article from J.D. Power on Aggressive Driving and Road Rage.

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