When teen drivers take to the road, they encounter all kinds of motorists — including some who are impatient, annoying, hot-tempered, or even dangerous. They may be driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or they might be dealing with their own emotional issues. And for some of these folks behind the wheel, there’s a temptation to take their problems out on others, risking lives in the process.
"Aggressive driving is distracted driving on steroids,” warns Roy Bavaro, Executive Director, National Foundation for Teen Safe Driving. “Tragic crashes generally occur when we are distracted and not fully focused on the task of driving.”
Crash statistics support this assertion. According to AAA, aggressive driving can factor in up to 56% of fatal crashes.
Speaking of statistics, we’ve got some to share with you that are sprinkled throughout this article. They are based on our 2022 Driving Habits survey responses from over 600 drivers 18 years of age and older.
Avoiding Road Rage
It’s vital for teen drivers to avoid aggressive drivers rather than engage them.
Newer drivers lack experience with aggressive driving and road rage. When caught off-guard, they sometimes respond to aggression with more aggression. Reacting emotionally, rather than rationally, escalates the situation.
Bavaro suggests an alternative approach. “Stay calm, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if getting even is more important than getting home,” he noted.
In other words, the best way to deal with road rage is to avoid it if possible.
Experiencing Road Rage — Stats to Know
Identifying Aggressive Drivers
Let’s look at some of the main behaviors of aggressive drivers so that you know how to spot them on the road and can steer clear.
They’re not Defensive Drivers: Think improper lane changes, passing where it’s not allowed, changing speeds suddenly, not obeying traffic signs, or not signaling. Basically, they partake in some seriously risky driving.
They Are Demonstrably Angry: Honking horns, flipping the proverbial bird, shouting obscenities… These people don’t hold back.
They’re Tailgaters to the Extreme: If they got any closer to the cars they tailgate, they’d be in front of them. Can you say, “Get outta my personal space!” and “Have you heard of this thing called ‘following distance’?”
Controlling Your Own Road Rage
If you see a little of yourself in these behaviors, you're not alone. Our research indicates that approximately half of all drivers admit to experiencing a certain degree of road rage themselves.
If that applies to you, here are some preventive measures you can take to make sure you keep your cool on the road:
Most road ragers are usually dealing with some sort of emotional crisis, so if your girlfriend or boyfriend just broke up with you, your parents are being… well, you know, or you had a bad day at work, give yourself some time to defuse before getting behind the wheel.
Expect other drivers to make mistakes, and remember that everyone is human. You’ll be less freaked out when they do.
Be predictable. Always check your blind spots and use your signals when you change lanes, so you don’t turn anyone else into a road rager. Being a cautious and considerate driver should help prevent road rage in others.
If it’s rush hour or you find yourself in a traffic jam due to an accident, put on your favorite playlist and reconcile yourself to the fact that you're going to run late. It's okay. And don’t make things worse by gesturing obscenely at people trying to merge into your lane. It could be they’ve got a real emergency — you never know.
Road Rage Triggers - Stats to Know
What to Do if You’re Involved in a Road Rage Incident
Road rage incidents and accidents do happen. Check out these sobering facts.
Road Rage Incidents - Stats to Know
30% of drivers say they encounter road rage often (25%) or every time (5%) they drive
75% of drivers who have encountered road rage, report having been followed by another driver
65% of drivers who have encountered road rage have felt unsafe because of it
Not to fear, though. There are actions you can take to keep safe. Here’s what the NHTSA (National Highway Transportation and Safety Agency) says you can do if you find yourself in the middle of a road rage incident:
Avoid mad motorists, if possible. Ain't nobody got time for that negative energy.
Don't feed the trolls. If you try to speed up to pass an angry driver or prevent them from merging in your lane, it only makes things worse and can put your life in danger! Let them pass and leave plenty of room between you and that ol’ crabby pants.
If an angry driver gives you the finger or makes another obscene gesture, be a grown-up and ignore it. Such gestures have gotten people physically attacked many times. Um, no thanks.
Honk that horn only if you really have to for defensive driving purposes — like if a driver is merging into your lane and doesn't appear to see you. Don't use your horn if you're simply annoyed because you're sitting in traffic. We're all in the same boat... er, car. Honking your horn is meant to alert other drivers, not scold them. Take the high road, and engage in polite driving.
Don't be afraid to report aggressive drivers to the authorities. You could save a life and prevent road rage from causing a bigger issue.
If you see a driver with road rage get into an auto accident, be cautious about approaching the vehicle and driver. Stop a safe distance away from them, then call the police to report the incident. Aggressive drivers can be unpredictable, so keep your own safety top of mind at all times.
If an aggressive driver starts following you, don't go home. Call the police and drive to the nearest police station. You don't want to become the victim of a road rage attack.
Improve Your Defensive Driving
It can be a little intimidating when you start to realize the kinds of crazy drivers you might encounter on the road. But you don’t have to let that become a major stressor for you. Instead, take comfort in knowing that a prepared driver is a safe driver. And a safe driver is a calm driver.
To help yourself be better prepared to deal with aggressive drivers, look to I Drive Safely for up-to-date online defensive driving courses. What you learn just might end up saving your life one day.