Dealing with Aggression on the Road & What To Do If You Are Being FollowedUpdated Aug. 8, 2020
If you commit to driving in a courteous and attentive manner every time you get behind the wheel, you should be able to avoid becoming the focus of another motorist’s road rage. However, you must know how to deal with aggression on the road just in case you ever find yourself in hot water. It is important not to take an aggressive driver’s actions personally, even if you are the target. You may think you can explain yourself or reason with your aggressor but this is rarely the case. When a driver’s aggression develops into rage, there is very little you can do or say to calm them down.
Try to remain calm
Keeping a cool head is the key to protecting yourself from an aggressive driver. Try not to become worked up or angry yourself, as this will only add fuel to the fire. Your safety is ultimately your responsibility and should be your primary concern. You may think that you can assist another road user by stepping in if they are the target of an aggressive driver, but it is likely you will only put yourself and the person you are trying to help in more danger.
When you see another driver displaying road rage or driving in an aggressive manner, treat them the same way as you would any other hazard on the road. Adjust your driving behavior to keep your distance and if necessary, call the police at the next safe opportunity.
Avoid engaging with aggressive drivers
No matter how highly you rate your people-skills, trust us when we say that engaging with an aggressive driver is extremely unlikely to calm them down. More often than not, unsolicited interference from other road users will only make the aggressive person feel more indignant and angrier as a result. It is very easy to misinterpret someone’s intentions when you are angry – even a friendly smile or wave can be taken the wrong way. When you encounter an aggressive driver:
- Make every effort to keep out of their way, even if it means abandoning your preferred route to your destination.
- Never reprimand them or draw their attention to their own behavior by tailgating, sounding your horn, gesturing, shouting or taking any similar action.
- Do not make eye contact with them, as they could take this as an act of aggression in their angered state.
The safest action to take when faced with aggression or road rage is to give the driver in question as much space as possible. Never try to get an aggressive driver’s attention or communicate with them in anyway, unless your immediate safety depends on it.
Finding yourself the focus of another driver’s aggression can be frightening but it is important not to panic, and to consider your actions carefully. Do not react or retaliate if you are threatened or spoken to rudely. Words and gestures can be upsetting, but not nearly as upsetting as property damage, injury or death, which are all possible outcomes if you do not defuse the situation.
Do not allow wounded pride to make you do something you’ll regret. Challenging an aggressive driver could cause them to get out of the car and attack you, ram your vehicle with their own, follow you, or worse. Anger can make a person incredibly vindictive. Enraged drivers have been known to follow and harass other motorists even if it means going several miles out of their way. If you allow aggressive behavior to wash over you and focus on the task of driving instead, you will quickly forget the encounter and be able to get on with enjoying your day.
What to do if you are being followed
If you ever find yourself being followed by an aggressive driver, take a deep breath and do not panic. Allowing yourself to become flustered or upset could lead to a deadly mistake. Remember these safety rules:
DO NOT drive home or to your place of work. If the person following you is mentally unstable, you do not want them to know where to find you on another occasion.
If necessary, flash your lights and sound your horn to notify other road users of your situation. This may prompt the aggressive driver to discontinue their pursuit.
If they persist in following you, drive to the nearest police station or a safe place where there are plenty of other people around. The driver is unlikely to harm you in front of witnesses!
Do not get out of your car. While in your vehicle, you will be safer from a physical attack.
If, when you have stopped, the aggressive driver exits their vehicle and approaches yours, resist the urge to get out yourself. You may use this opportunity to drive away while your aggressor is unable to pursue you but only if you can do so calmly, without endangering yourself or other road users. When this is not possible, remain in your vehicle and contact the police. In the event that you do not have access to a cell phone, you can let others know that you are in need of assistance by yelling or sounding your horn.
If a collision is likely
Do not attempt to intervene personally, if you believe an aggressive driver is about to cause a collision. The desire to help other people can be a powerful thing in such circumstances, but remember, there are professionals whose job it is to deal with this kind of situation. You will be doing the victims of the aggressive driver a favor by calling the police, rather than attempting to assist them yourself. When there is a serious risk of injury or death and you cannot pull over, you may contact the police while driving. Otherwise, pull over to a safe spot before placing the call.
Equally, you must not interfere if you see a crash caused by an aggressive driver. Pulling over to engage with the aggressor or the victim is likely to worsen the situation and could lead to further property damage, injury or loss of life. If you witnessed the incident or the events prior to the crash, you should contact law enforcement and wait for them to arrive to provide a statement. Make sure you are safely parked out of harm’s way before doing this.
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