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With the population rapidly growing in the Tampa Bay area, incidents of road rage continue to increase. In Hillsborough County alone there are over 1 million drivers, with a reported 4,000 motor vehicle accidents in 2015. With so many individuals on the road who are stressed, tired, and distracted with text messages and phone calls, incidents of road rage are inevitable. So, what do you do if you’re involved in a road rage incident, and what are the appropriate procedures?

The key to maneuvering your way out of an unsafe situation with an aggressive driver is to remain calm and to “take the high road”. Provide positive signs and feedback to the aggressive driver. Let the driver know that you acknowledge the situation. You can do so by waiving at the driver in a friendly manner. If the driver continues to pursue, allow them to get into your lane or move around you as safely as possible. If the situation does not work itself out at this point, call the police. Even if you do not call the emergency line, call the non-emergency line because it is very important to fully document the situation. Provide as much information as possible including details about the driver’s car, your location, and any erratic behavior. Inform the driver that you are contacting the police. Finally, if calling the police does not stop the driver’s behavior, remain in your vehicle with the windows rolled up and proceed to the nearest police station as quickly and as safely as possible. Do not step out of your vehicle until you are in a safe environment.

What can you do as a driver to avoid road rage incidents?

First, look at your own driving style. Are you an aggressive driver, or are you practicing safe driving habits? Safe driving habits include using your turn signal when switching lanes, keeping a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, and using your horn only when appropriate. Strive to practice safe driving habits in order to avoid starting a confrontation with potentially aggressive drivers.

Second, most incidents of road rage are spurred by impaired drivers and stress. Texting while driving or using your phone, even with a hands free device, can greatly increase your chances of losing concentration. Impaired or reckless driving may cause other drivers to become stressed or annoyed. Maintain your focus by eliminating any distractions. If you have to make a phone call, keep it short or wait until the vehicle is stopped. Texting while driving should never be practiced.

Finally, remove indications from your car regarding schools that you or your kids may attend, or bumper stickers regarding political beliefs. These indications serve as a way of identifying your vehicle. This is both a safety precaution to ensure your privacy, and a way to avoid potentially dangerous situations in the future with an aggressive driver.

It is important to remain calm and alert at all times while driving. Road rage is an ever-growing epidemic, but can be reduced by a few simple acts.