Over the last few weeks, cities in the Valley have been plagued by incidents of aggressive driving and road rage, incidents that in some cases have left drivers with injuries and, unfortunately, in others have cost them their lives. Road rage incidents have increased over the last two years in Arizona, and this year are expected to surpass 500 incidents. Unfortunately, this rise in road rage incidents isn't unique to Arizona. Nationwide, road rage incidents are increasing; a person is shot in a road rage incident every 18 hours on average in the U.S.
While you can't predict if you'll come across one of these drivers, there are signs you can pay attention to that will alert you of their presence on the road. Road rage is much more than excessive honking. It's any unsafe driving behavior performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety. This can include hazardous lane changes such as weaving in and out of traffic, following a vehicle too closely, failure to yield right of way, high-speed driving, preventing a car from passing or changing lanes, using headlights, or "brake checking" other drivers.
If you become the target of one of these drivers, prioritize your safety and that of your passengers by doing the following:
- Distance yourself from them; if you can, stay behind the problem and let them drive off.
- Don't engage or escalate the situation by gesturing or trying to talk. Erratic drivers are not thinking about their actions but rather acting on emotional impulses.
- Stay in your car; leaving your car to engage in a confrontation puts you, your passengers, and others in your vicinity at risk.
- If you are being followed, find a route to remove yourself from the situation. While it may be tempting to drive home, head to a public area or a police station, hospital, or fire station instead. If you can't leave your location, use your horn to attract attention, but remain in your locked vehicle.
- If you feel threatened or in danger, call 911.
We all benefit when we are mindful and act courteously on the road. This includes maintaining a proper distance from others, using turn signals, and allowing space for others to pass or merge. Most importantly, plan ahead so you're not rushed while driving and avoid distractions that may cause you to make impulsive maneuvers.