For many neighborhood families, back to school means back to a busy schedule of soccer practices and scout meetings. More time outside the home also means more time on the road. While drivers can take some safety measures, such as using turn signals and wearing seatbelts, they and their passengers are still vulnerable to becoming victims of other drivers’ “road rage.” So before you get behind the wheel to carpool the neighborhood kids to their next game, take a moment to review what you should do if confronted with another driver’s “road rage.”

What are some of the more common causes of road rage?

What often starts as aggressive driving – a miscalculation of clearance to exit or enter a lane of traffic, or driver distraction caused by talking on cell phones or attending to children in the car – can escalate into a road rage incident. We live in a fast-paced society where most people are in a hurry to get to their destination. When traffic snarls slow us down, disrupt our schedules and make us late, we often become irritated. For some people, the emotion extends beyond mere irritation and they feel compelled to take aggressive action and strike out at the person or persons they perceive as being the source of the problem. In other situations, road rage is not the result of people driving aggressively or slow moving traffic, but events in the life of the offender that is causing them significant stress and frustration. When you couple the stresses they are experiencing with the frustration of driving in traffic, they will strike out in anger. When this occurs people get hurt.

Is this common in our neighborhood?

As of July 31, the North Central Patrol Division has recorded 19 road rage incidents that escalated into aggravated assault offenses in 2006. In order for an assault offense to become “aggravated” the offender must cause serious bodily injury to the victim, or use or exhibit a deadly weapon in the commission of the offense. An automobile used as a weapon is considered a “deadly weapon.”

These offenses report conduct such as intentionally driving into a victim’s car or shooting into a car with a firearm.

How can drivers protect themselves from road rage?

To reduce the possibility of becoming involved in an incident, follow these simple steps.

1. Practice courteous driving techniques. When you see people trying to merge into traffic, slow down and allow them to merge.

2. If you are driving on a freeway, only drive in the center or right hand lanes. Leave the left lane for passing.

3. Pay attention to your driving. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by communication devices, entertainment devices, children in your car, etc.

4. If you find yourself the object of someone’s hostility, do not retaliate. Drive away from the encounter. If the person pursues you, use your cell phone or drive to a populated area where you can call 911.

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