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Last updated: March 23, 2023

Road Rage: What it is and How to Avoid It

Don’t let the stress of the road lead to more accidents and incidents with other drivers.

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Being on the road can be stressful. Even smaller cities are congested with cars, and everyone seems to run late and get short tempered. The result is a growing trend of road rage incidents leading to car damage, injuries, and further delays. While you can’t control the emotions of others, you can control your own emotions and your driving patterns to reduce the chances of being involved in a road rage event.

What Is Road Rage?

Road rage is any number of aggressive or angry behaviors motorists show while driving. While many road rage incidents are minor, they can lead to accidents or confrontations, as we’ve seen on the local news.

On May 21, 2021, for instance, one road rage incident resulted in a child being shot and killed while riding in his booster seat.1 Aiden Leos, just six years old, was sitting in the back seat of his mother’s car on the way to school. When his mother crossed in front of a car, it sped up, and the passenger fired a gun into her vehicle. The bullet hit Aiden, who died from his injuries.

What Is Road Rage

While this is an extreme example, road rage comes in various forms. Minor incidents may involve screaming profanities or making obscene gestures at another driver. But road rage can quickly escalate into more aggressive driving, such as tailgating, weaving, driving over the speed limit, making rude gestures, and cutting other drivers off.


According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the term “aggressive driving” first came to be in the 1990s as a way to label “dangerous on-the-road behaviors”.2

As driving becomes more aggressive, it becomes more dangerous. Even something as seemingly harmless as hand gestures can escalate a situation to violence.

Drivers today must be aware of their every move to prevent triggering another driver’s road rage accidentally.

Legal Status of Road Rage

Road rage is more than just something someone does and forgets about. It has a legal definition and can get someone in trouble with the law. From the legal perspective, road rage is a group of behaviors expressed on the roadways that stem from traffic-related incidents.3

Road rage and aggressive driving aren’t exactly the same thing, but they’re related. Road rage is separate from but can include aggressive driving.

While aggressive driving (tailgating and cutting someone off) is a traffic offense, road rage is a criminal offense because you are using the vehicle as a weapon. Aggressive driving is not always road rage. In fact, aggressive driving by one driver can often trigger road rage in another.

Road Rage Factors

There are a lot of factors that play a role in road rage incidents. It’s important to understand that you can’t control what triggers other people, but you can control your own reactions. By doing so, you can reduce your own negligent driving actions that can lead to road rage.

Traffic Delays

No one likes being in traffic. Being stuck in it can lead to road rage with cars trying to change lanes and finding the best driving positions on the road to get to their next exit. While everyone is stuck in the traffic together, it can affect people differently.

For some, it causes them to run late, adding stress to their day and making them anxious and angry. For others, traffic might prevent them from getting home quickly where they can finally relax after a long day. This leads to heightened frustration.

Running Late

Running late can lead to road rage. It’s natural for someone to try to make up time when they are running late. In doing so, they may be more aggressive on the roads, trying to move in and out of faster lanes and take shortcuts.

These actions can not only be frustrating for other drivers, but they can be dangerous. When you’re driving more aggressively, you can instigate a road rage scenario.


Give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Plan ahead so that you can avoid feeling anxious or doing something that triggers another driver’s road rage.


Being one motor vehicle in a sea of traffic can lead to a sense of anonymity. When people feel that others won’t be able to attribute actions to them, they are more likely to act aggressively if they feel someone did something wrong.

This is akin to the verbal aggressiveness seen in today’s social media world, such as the mean comments on a YouTube video. And even though driving is not done online, the same theory applies where people don’t think they will be held accountable for their actions among so many cars.

Disregard for Others or the Law

We would hope that everyone has high regard for others and the law, but this isn’t always the case. There are those who will run red lights, blatantly cut people off, and ignore common courtesy on the road. There isn’t much you can do if someone just doesn’t care; they’ll carry on with their egregious behavior. However, make sure you follow the rules and employ defensive driving skills to avoid unnecessary confrontations.

Learned Behavior

Some drivers are just taught the wrong things and have learned over time that they can get away with aggressive driving and road rage. Whether you call it entitled or careless, it really doesn’t matter. When aggressive driving that can lead to road rage is habitual, all you can do is take a deep breath and do your best to stay out of harm’s way.

Most Common Forms of Road Rage

Knowing what road rage looks like can help you step back and avoid bad situations. Don’t engage in road rage actions so that you can prevent things from getting out of control. Here are the most common forms of road rage.

Most Common Forms of Road Rage


Honking is a baseline reaction among many drivers. When you feel that someone did something wrong and it affected you, you honk your horn. The idea behind it is to alert the person to what they did wrong on the road, but it often becomes a way to let off steam in an angry way.


Avoid honking when possible. Hearing a horn tends to startle people and can lead to an angry response, possibly resulting in road rage.


Usually, the next form of road rage involves yelling out your window at someone. Profanities may or may not be involved. Yelling can often start a bigger confrontation.

Angry or Obscene Gestures

Shaking your fists or flipping the bird are two of the most common gestures in road rage incidents. Keep in mind that an angry gesture will likely be met with an equal or greater angry action. This is how road rage escalates into accidents that lead to insurance claims, like someone striking your car intentionally, a form of auto vandalism.


If someone doesn’t feel as if you are going fast enough, they are likely to start tailgating you, driving very close to the rear of your car. Tailgating is an aggressive driving move that often results in road rage that leads to more rear-end collisions.

Blocking Another Vehicle From Changing Lanes

To get where you’re going, you often need to move from lane to lane so that you can turn or take freeway exits. A common form of road rage has the angry driver prevent the other driver from changing lanes, escalating an already contentious situation.

Purposefully Cutting Another Vehicle Off

Angry drivers who feel that they’ve been cut off themselves or otherwise had their driving infringed upon may cut you off purposely. Often they’ll do this repeatedly to make a point that they are in control. Use your defensive driving skills to avoid an accident and try to find a route they aren’t taking.

Exiting the Vehicle to Confront Another Driver

This may happen at a stoplight or in heavy traffic. A triggered driver may get out of their car and approach the car they feel did something wrong. They will often scream and pound on the window of the car they are confronting. As evidenced by the case with Aiden Leos, confrontations can lead to extreme actions such as fights or gun violence.

Bumping or Ramming Another Vehicle

This is one of the more dangerous actions a road rager can engage in. They may come up behind you and ram you or come alongside and swerve into you. You know you are dealing with someone who has no regard for the law or property when this happens. Call the police for help immediately.

Effects of Road Rage on Drivers

The effects of road rage on drivers are pretty clear: agitation and stress when driving. Think about the effect of someone yelling at you while in traffic. You’ll likely get angry too, feeling righteous in your actions as a driver. As more aggressive driving is employed in road rage incidents, you may start to become fearful that a bad accident may result.

The risk of road rage is more accidents, injuries, and deaths. Since road rage can happen to anyone, it’s important to avoid angry behaviors such as shouting obscenities while driving.

How to Avoid Road Rage

Nobody is perfect. There are times that you may be a little frustrated on the road and trigger another driver. However, how you handle the situation can determine whether or not you are in a serious road rage incident. It’s one thing if there are only a few honked horns and then everyone gets on their way, but when confrontation and contact start to happen, police often become involved.

Here are some ways to avoid road rage.

Before You Drive

Get yourself prepared for the road before you drive. This means that you eliminate as many stressors as possible. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the road:

  1. Leave early. If running late is a key trigger for road rage, do your best to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. It’s amazing what leaving five minutes earlier than normal can do to help you feel relaxed while on the road when driving to work or an appointment.
  2. Keep your car maintained. Get your car serviced regularly to keep your car working properly. While it can be stressful to get stuck on the side of the road, driving a car without the pickup and zip that it should have can lead to frustration and aggressive driving.
  3. Go to the bathroom. Not to sound like Mom, but if you are stuck in traffic and have to go, you’ll be more stressed. Under those circumstances, you’re likely to be more aggressive to get to your destination.
  4. Make sure the kids are occupied. Parents can get frazzled by kids whining or crying in the backseat. Have a favorite stuffed animal or game for each kid to keep them occupied during the commute.

While Driving

The best way to avoid road rage scenarios is to control your emotions and keep your reactions in check. What you do on the road will directly affect how other drivers react to you. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Practice grace. Understand that not everyone is perfect and having a good day. Sometimes trying to empathize with others can negate your negative reactions.
  2. Turn off the phone. While hands-free cell phone usage while driving may be legal in most states, it can still be distracting, especially if the call is about something important. Avoid your own distracted driving that can trigger others’ road rage. Finish calls before you set off, or pull over when appropriate so that you don’t text while driving.
  3. Practice courteous driving habits. This can go a long way to preventing road rage incidents. Signal when you want to turn, and make sure to thank people who let you in by giving them a friendly wave. Let other drivers go in front of you when you know that they need to merge. Being kind reduces the chances of triggering someone else’s road rage.

When Someone Reacts to You

As we’ve already said, everyone makes mistakes. You can’t control every action, and there will be times that you might upset someone. Sometimes you don’t even know what you did to trigger them.

How you react to their road rage can either calm the situation down or escalate it. Ideally, you want to calm it down. Here’s how:

  1. Apologize. Acknowledge that you did something wrong and apologize. Sometimes, a genuine apology is all that is needed to calm someone down. Most people will understand eye contact and a wave with words mouthed, “I’m sorry.”
  2. Don’t aggravate the situation. Don’t retaliate with your own road rage. Yelling and honking won’t do much good, and employing aggressive driving actions can lead to real problems. Remember that you could be considered at fault if you have a road rage accident.
  3. Get help. The great thing about having cell phones is that help is just a call away. Call for help or drive to a police station if you feel that you can’t remedy the situation otherwise.

Does Road Rage Affect Your Insurance?

Road rage can affect your car insurance rates if it leads to a ticket or an at-fault accident. Keep in mind that moving violations will appear on your driving record and bad drivers are considered higher risks. The same is true for an at-fault incident. If you cause the incident, it will go on your driving record and affect your insurance rates.

Does Insurance Cover Road Rage

Does Insurance Cover Road Rage?

Insurance may not cover road rage incidents. If you engage in aggressive activities related to road rage, these are considered intentional acts and not accidents. They can also be criminally prosecuted. And even though road rage incidents are not covered, they will increase your premium.

If you are the victim of a road rage incident and someone hits your car, you might not even be able to get the driver to give you his information. You can file a claim with your insurance carrier and pay the deductible to get your car fixed. This isn’t ideal since you may be out of pocket for your deductible, but it’s the best that you can do to get your car fixed in some situations.

It’s best to avoid road rage situations altogether to make sure that your day is not interrupted and that you aren’t responsible for expensive accidents.

Summary of Road Rage

Road rage is a criminal activity that can be prosecuted. While anyone can get frustrated with things like traffic, being a courteous driver helps avoid road rage incidents. If someone engages you with aggressive driving and you feel it is road rage, call the police for help. Getting help could prevent a situation from escalating into damage of persons or property.


You can see lots of examples in the media of the results of road rage. Take a look at some of the most common questions to see how you can avoid these nasty events.

Does road rage affect car insurance rates?

Road range can affect insurance. If you get a ticket for a road rage incident or cause an accident, your insurance rates will go up. Road rage is a risky activity, and insurance carriers will price policies according to your driving.

Do you get points for road rage?

You can get points for road rage if the police get involved. If you get a moving violation that is the result of road rage, the points are added to your driving record. More egregious actions can lead to more significant tickets, such as reckless driving.

How do you avoid becoming a contributor to road rage?

To avoid contributing to road rage:

  1. Be mindful of your emotions and actions.
  2. Follow the law and street signs when driving and avoid aggressive driving tactics like cutting someone off and honking.
  3. If someone exhibits road rage, do your best to ignore them and continue driving.
  4. Seek police help if they persist.

Why is road rage so bad?

Road rage is so bad because it can escalate into aggressive driving, which can lead to accidents and injuries. It’s a willful action that completely disregards safety protocols while driving. You can’t control how people react to things on the road. Sometimes an innocent action like changing lanes can lead to road rage, putting other drivers in harm’s way.


  1. The road rage killing of 6-year-old Aiden Leos: What we know about suspects, shooting. Los Angeles Times. (2021, Jun 7).

  2. Introduction. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2022).

  3. Road Rage Law and Legal Definition. USLegal. (2022).