Picture the scene: you’re walking along the pavement when you inadvertently wander in front of someone. What happens next?
Yes, that’s right; the chances are you’ll both be terribly British about it and apologise to each other – no matter who was at fault – and carry on, without giving it another thought.
Picture a similar scene in a car and it’s hard to come up with any scenario that doesn’t involve the other driver shaking their fist and sounding their horn, isn’t it?
Theories abound as to what causes such a drastic change in our attitudes when we get behind the wheel but one thing is certain: it’s a very real problem and it’s getting worse; research undertaken by carwow shows that 81% of us have been victims.
So what should you do if you are on the receiving end of road rage?
The problem can be split into three areas: action you can take to avoid getting involved, what to do during an incident, and what to do afterwards.
Read our guide to what to do if you are involved in a car accident
How to avoid getting embroiled in someone else’s rage
Violent road rage incidents are rare. So while you might be offended and insulted, it’s unlikely you will be injured.
Having said that, it’s a good idea to drive with your car’s doors locked. Don’t worry about the emergency services not being able to get to you because they’ll automatically unlock after an accident.
If you do accidentally annoy another road user, a mouthed apology and a raised open-hand gesture goes a long way to defusing the situation.
Try to cultivate a calm, laid-back attitude to the actions of other road users. Remember: if you were both pedestrians, it wouldn’t be such a problem, would it?
Did you know you can be penalised for inconsiderate driving? Find out more...
What to do during a road rage incident
If you are being tailgated on a dual carriageway, pull back into the nearside lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Don’t brake suddenly or stubbornly maintain your position in the overtaking lane.
If someone does shout abuse and gesticulate at you, try apologising, even if you aren’t at fault. It’s natural to want to defend yourself if you’ve done nothing wrong but the other driver is, by definition, beyond rational thought at this stage.
If they get out of their car to remonstrate with you, ignore them. Don’t be tempted to unlock your door or open a window to remonstrate with them.
When queuing in traffic, leave a decent gap between you and the car in front: if you can see the tarmac behind the rear wheel of the car in front you’ve got space to manoeuvre away if you need to.
If you feel threatened, drive away if it is safe to do so. However, don’t panic and make a bad situation worse; it’s very hard to break into a locked car with bare hands so you are safe even if you are scared.
If you drive away, there is no need to speed off. You only need to drive away at a faster speed that they can run and 10 mph is plenty fast enough when your adrenaline and heart are pumping ten-to-the-dozen!
If the other driver follows you, drive to a well-populated area. A petrol station is a good choice because they’ll have CCTV cameras running, which gives you time to call for help and wait for the police from the safety of your car while being observed on camera.
Consider buying and installing a video camera in your car. They start at under £20 for a basic model and the evidence it will gather during an accident or other incident might be invaluable to the police or your insurance company.
If you have a passenger, some advocate asking them to photograph or video the offender. That might have some evidential value but I think it’s more likely to provoke than deter them.
Think you know the law? Read our guide to eight new rules that affect motorists.
What to do afterwards
If you are shaken – and why wouldn’t you be? – pull over as soon as you can and take a quick walk to burn off some of the adrenaline that’s coursing through your system. Talk to someone about it if you can. Reliving it in safety will help you make sense of what happened.
Consider reporting the matter to the police. By doing so you might help prevent anyone else becoming a victim of the same oafish driver.
Think through what happened and try to understand how it happened: was your driving to blame? Did you inflame the situation at all? Was there anything you could have done differently? Or were you just the unlucky victim of a bully who was having a bad day?
Consider taking a driving assessment with someone like the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). It offers a range of courses that will help you iron out any bad habits and help restore lost confidence in your driving ability following a road rage incident.
After you’ve thought it through, try not to dwell on it.
That’s easy to say but important to do. Please do try to put it behind you and get on with enjoying your car and the freedom that comes with it!
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