Let’s face it, driving can be stressful. Traffic jams, distracted drivers, car trouble: all these factors can lead to a commute that leaves you wanting to pull your hair out. However, the way you react to these stressors can affect you and your fellow motorists’ safety in a major way. Let’s talk about the ways road rage and driving anxiety can be dangerous, and how you can keep these common emotions under control.

Aggressive driving and road rage — what is it?

Road rage and aggressive driving is defensive driving’s dangerous little brother. According to Merriam-Webster, it is defined as a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior. It usually manifests in these types of dangerous actions:

  • Screaming
  • Laying on the horn
  • Following too closely to the car in front of you
  • Stalking someone who cut you off
  • Blocking traffic
  • Purposely cutting people off
  • Leaving the car to try to have a physical altercation
  • Bumping another car
  • Speeding
  • Weaving through traffic
  • Driving on the sidewalk or median

Road rage and frustration around road rage is increasing, even in the last couple of years when many drivers have been driving less. A 2021 survey by insurance comparison site The Zebra found that 35% of people are driving less today, but 1 in 5 drivers experience more frustration than before the pandemic. Of those surveyed, 95% said they had observed road rage or aggressive driving in the past year, but only 64% of drivers admitted to doing it.

But what causes this behavior?

What causes road rage?

There are four main factors that typically cause road rage.

Traffic: Nobody enjoys being stuck in traffic, but truly impatient drivers become irritated more quickly, and minor difficulties may irritate them more easily.

A sense of anonymity: To some, the road is similar to the internet in that you can interact with someone and then lose track of them. This mentality empowers the driver, making them less hesitant to honk, gesticulate, or cut someone off.

Other driver’s behavior: Seeing a distracted motorist swerve, cut you off accidently, or otherwise drive erratically can be frightening, and it can lead to resentment directed at the irresponsible driver. Avoiding them or pulling over and calling the authorities is safer and more effective than confronting them.

Impatience: Some drivers believe their meetings are more important than everyone else’s on the road, and impatient drivers are more likely to drive dangerously.

Acting on these annoyances on the road can lead to deeply dangerous outcomes.

The consequences of road rage

If something happens on the road that makes you angry, aggressive driving may feel like your only course of action. The truth is that road rage will only put you and your fellow drivers in more danger. Road rage can lead to car accidents, physical altercations, lawsuits, major injuries, and even death. The bottom line is that losing your patience for a few seconds while driving can have lifelong consequences.

Tips to avoid road rage

  • Timely departure is essential. Persistent lateness is one of the elements that contribute to risky driving. Before leaving, check the traffic reports for construction, traffic crashes, and other delays. To avoid driving aggressively, make sure you give yourself enough time to get to your destination.
  • Tailgating will accomplish nothing, even if the guy in front of you is driving slowly in the fast lane. In the best-case scenario, the motorist will ignore you; in the worst-case scenario, the other driver will become irritated and respond.
  • Don’t honk if you don’t have to. A gentle honk may be appropriate in some situations (for example, if the person in front of you is sitting still at a green light), but honking out of aggravation is ineffective and annoying to everyone around you.
  • Empathy is a virtue. Nobody is flawless, and no one is out to get you, so don’t take things too seriously. Put yourself in their shoes — if someone is driving slowly, it’s possible they’re lost. There are always two sides to every tale, so don’t be so quick to judge.
  • Consider enrolling in an anger management class. If you find yourself unable to control your temper, an anger management class can teach you how to stay calm in stressful situations.

How to avoid an aggressive driver

If you find yourself on the receiving end of someone’s road rage, don’t panic. Here are some ways to deescalate the situation.

  • Maintain your composure. Make no obnoxious gestures, don’t brake check, and don’t block the driver.
  • Maintain a safe distance. If the other driver is driving wildly near you in an attempt to exact revenge, try to stay as far away from them as possible. To get away from this person, do not speed or weave in and out of traffic; instead, attempt to stay as far away as possible without stopping.
  • Drive to the nearest police station. If you’re being tailgated, harassed, or pursued by an angry driver, pulling into a police station is one of the most effective methods to lose them. They will most likely leave you alone; however, if they persist in following you, walk into the station and inform the authorities that an aggressive driver has followed you there.

Anxiety around driving

Anger is one emotion typically experienced by drivers; the other is anxiety. Anxiety can be just as dangerous because it lessens your ability to make good decisions while driving. Here are some common causes for driving anxiety:


  • Previous car accidents
  • Getting lost on the road
  • Heavy traffic
  • Witnessing a bad car accident either on television or in person
  • A loved one being involved in an accident
  • Not trusting your own driving skills

Panic attacks while driving

If you have panic attacks on occasion, you may be concerned about having one again, especially if you are in a position or location where you could endanger yourself or others.

Panic attacks are generally caused by a fear of losing control, but worrying about it may make it more likely that you’ll have one. While feeling nervous, panicked, or stressed for any reason while driving does not definitely indicate you will panic, it does increase your chances of having an episode. Panic attacks can happen as a result of fear or as a result of being exposed to a trigger, such as an event, sight, smell, sound, or feeling that reminds you of your anxiety or a previous panic attack.

Symptoms of driving anxiety

Driving anxiety can manifest in many ways. Here are some common symptoms of driving anxiety:

  • Panic and terror, which is frequently exaggerated, persistent, and causes a strong need to leave the car
  • Sweating
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Dizziness and shortness of breath
  • Fast breathing and a pounding heartbeat

Effects of driving anxiety

Much like road rage, the effects of driving anxiety can be extremely dangerous. Driving while anxious leaves you very distracted, which can cause accidents that could harm you, your passengers, or other drivers on the road.

How to help your driving anxiety

A driving phobia can be managed with behavioral therapy. Exercises called “exposures” that include gradually becoming more comfortable with the settings linked with the phobia are commonly used in treatment. These are usually driving scenarios or bodily experiences that occur when driving. Because treatment is often effective, it’s critical to seek help as soon as possible, because not only does having a driving phobia hinder your everyday activities, it also increases your risk of acquiring certain health disorders like heart, pulmonary, cardiac, and vascular illness. Researchers recommend treatment as a technique to control your phobia to reduce this risk.

When hitting the open road, there will always be risks you can’t control. What you can control is how you react and being sure you have great car insurance. No matter what life throws your way, Elephant insurance has you covered. Find out if we provide coverage in your area and get a quote today.

Article last updated on June 25th, 2023 at 7:07 pm

Was this article helpful?

Share this post