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Road Rage Rages During the Holidays (Tips on How You Can Steer Clear)

For many North Carolina residents there's no avoiding travel during the holidays. Shopping. Visiting. Parties. And the usual commutes to work, kids' games and practices. Time is tight. People are stressed.

And road rage rages.

Just in the past couple of months:

A man pulled a gun on another driver while at Concord intersection during a road rage incident.

A Hoke County man was shot and killed when an enraged driver plowed into his car, pulled out a gun and shot him.

At UNC Greensboro two cars tried to block another car that was carrying a young passenger. One of the drivers pulled out a gun.

What in the world is going on?

I'll tell you what is going on.

More Stress + More Cars + Less Time = ROAD RAGE

People are stressed. Some are impaired by alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs). Many are in a hurry. And some are just plain rude.

An article in Psychiatry MMC, published on the National Institutes of Health website, offers this:

"Up to one-third of community participants report being perpetrators of road rage, indicating that various forms of road rage are relatively commonplace. ...The most common offenders appear to be young and male. A number of factors may contribute to road rage, including environmental factors (e.g., greater number of miles driven per day, traffic density), nonspecific psychological factors (e.g., displaced aggression, attribution of blame to others), and ... alcohol and substance misuse. ... Some reasons include borderline and antisocial personality disorders."

Why Is Road Rage Higher During the Holidays?

Why is road rage on the rise during the holidays? We've been representing accident victims since 1997, and here's what we've observed:

  • Traffic. This one almost goes without saying: the more traffic, the more likely it is for drivers to get frustrated and angry. With tens of thousands of extra cars on the road, the holidays become a breeding ground for road rage, especially during peak travel and shopping times.
  • Unfamiliarity. Thanks to our mild climate in North Carolina, we see a lot of friends and relatives coming from out of state for the holidays. Unfortunately, that means there are many more drivers on the road who don't know our roads well.
  • Unsafe maneuvers. One reason out-of-state drivers are disproportionately likely to cause road rage accidents is that they may potentially make unsafe maneuvers because they are not familiar with the roads. And tailgating, switching lanes, and making turns without signaling can all lead to road rage. Even something as simple as slowing down to try to read street signs can trigger rage.
  • Shopping and parking. Parking lots are some of the most common places road rage can happen any time of year. When the holiday shopping season hits, the parking lots at the Tanger outlets in Mebane and even your local Walmart can become a mob scene. Too many cars vying for limited parking spaces can turn ugly fast.
  • Seasonal stress. The stress of coordinating guests and celebrations, shopping, planning, decorating and all of the other tasks that come with the holidays can lead to an increase in stress on the roads.
  • Celebrations. Motorists who go out of their way to enjoy the holidays may be at risk of road rage. Holiday parties can lead to late nights out, and lack of sleep can contribute to road rage. Likewise, drug and alcohol use can cause drivers to become aggressive and impatient with others.
  • Winter weather. Winters in North Carolina generally aren't bad, but we all remember the ice storm of January 2015. Even a little snow or sleet can contribute to road rage.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists even more reasons you might find worth reading.

What to Do If You Are Confronted By an Enraged Driver

If you are confronted by an enraged driver, DMV.org suggests being the bigger person and showing remorse by:

  • Waving to the other driver
  • Mouthing that you're sorry
  • Allowing plenty of room for them to pass you
  • If it gets out of hand, call 911 as soon as it is safe to. And don't get out of your car if someone confronts you.

How to Keep Road Rage in Check

You can't control other drivers' behavior, but you can take steps to try to keep yourself safe from aggressive drivers. Here are a few ways to avoid being hurt in a road rage accident:

  • Make sure you're OK to drive. Be conscientious of whether you're too stressed, frustrated, or tired to get behind the wheel. If your safety is at risk, consider if those errands can wait.
  • Plan ahead. Just know there will be heavy traffic and give yourself enough time to get your tasks done. Plan your shopping trips and other errands before you leave home. If it's possible to arrange your schedule to go during off-peak hours, you'll be much safer.
  • Avoid distractions. Distracted driving can lead to missed green lights, failure to signal, and other maneuvers that could trigger road rage.
  • Stay calm, no matter what. If you witness road rage, the absolute safest thing you can do is not respond. Don't make eye contact, and certainly don't hit your horn, tailgate, or antagonize the other driver.

If you feel yourself getting stressed because of another driver, Psychology Today suggests you practice stress breathing in your car: inhale for a count of four, hold for count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and repeat as many times as necessary to help bring your pulse rate and blood pressure back to normal levels.

The article goes on to suggest that you keep your perspective. You cannot control, coerce, or fix the other driver. But you can control you. Focus on being "relentlessly positive" and practice kindness, starting with you first.

Like my grandmother used to say, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Car Wreck Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured by an aggressive driver in a road rage incident in North Carolina, contact us now for a free case evaluation or call us at 1-866-900-7078.

Chelsea Ragan joined the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin in 2013 and primarily handles personal injury cases.

Ms. Ragan received her J.D. from the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia, South Carolina, where she received numerous honors and awards, including Dean’s Honor List and being named a South Carolina Bar Foundation Public Interest Fellow. Prior to attending law school, she received her B.A. in Political Science and Geography at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

Prior to joining the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, Ms. Ragan worked as an Assistant Public Defender for the Public Defender’s Office in Gastonia, North Carolina.

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