Road rage happens. Whether you see it in cities or on the Interstates, sometimes people can become agitated for even the slightest of reasons. If you find yourself the object of their ire, do all you can to de-escalate and avoid the situation. That might involve swallowing some pride and allowing them past you, or it might involve calling 9-1-1 if the problem doesn’t resolve itself and they persist.
Road rage situations sometimes escalate to the point of violence. Whether that violence involves smashing one car into another, or physical violence once the cars have stopped, road rage can turn into a defensive gun use or even gunfights pretty quickly. As we all should know, the best way to win a gunfight is to avoid it entirely.
We recently had a personal defense discussion at one of our Guns Save Life meetings in Charleston, Illinois. Melissa Harden, a photographer by day, shares advice with ordinary people in her spare time on how to avoid becoming the victim of violence.
She brought her wealth of information and shared it with our gathering of the faithful that night, discussing road rage. She raised some good points and then did a nice job asking the audience for their own stories about road ragers. After all, we’ve all seen it at one time or another in our lives.
A couple of points made by a professional truck driver really stood out. He said that dash cams are priceless when it comes to driving these days. They tell what happened in living color without emotion or prejudice. If you’re a decent human being who doesn’t drive like an idiot, you need a dash cam to protect yourself (after the fact) from both potential criminals and scammers, as well as liars when it comes to minor traffic incidents.
In his experience, construction areas when traffic merges ahead of a closed lane really tends to bring out driver craziness. Whether it’s aggressive motorists just trying to get around the other cars patiently waiting their turn or road hogs using their car as a blockade to prevent people from trying to pass a long line, sometimes “normal” drivers tend to get stupid.
Practice defensive driving, Melissa Harden recommended. Be aware of your surroundings when behind the wheel — practice good situational awareness — just as you would when you’re out on foot.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people having a bad day get behind the wheel. Resist your urge to take the right-of-way even if it’s clearly yours to avoid those in a hurry. She also noted that when a road rager has passengers, they may want to escalate even more to show off to others in the vehicle.
If you notice a potential angry driver, do whatever it takes to allow the other person to go about their way. The last thing you want is for them to chase you or worse yet, follow you home. And never, ever take them to your home.
There’s always the temptation to practice digital communication. You know, the sort that involves the middle finger. That doesn’t help or accomplish anything and it may bait the wrong person into a confrontation.
Don’t get fired up when inattentive or aggressive drivers cut you off or pull out in front of you. Otherwise you might end up like this guy…
Staying calm and well-centered is your best bet. When another driver is enraged, they aren’t thinking clearly and their judgement is seriously impaired.
If the other driver doesn’t go on their way, make a call to 9-1-1 as soon as possible. Give the dispatcher a quick rundown, telling them you’re the object of a road raging individual.
Share your location and direction of travel. Give them your name and a description of your car and that of the rager’s vehicle. Remember, he who calls 9-1-1 first usually gets to claim victim status. Aggressors seldom call 9-1-1…at least not right away.
Always give yourself the ability to escape if you come to a stop because of construction or traffic signals. If the other driver starts to emerge from their vehicle, make your escape before they can block you in place. By now you should already be on the phone to 9-1-1. Give them a running narration of what’s happening.
Regardless of whether you’re on the phone to 9-1-1 or if you left your phone at home, if the other driver persists in tailing you, drive to a populated area or better yet, to your local police station. Along the way, if you see a police squad car parked at a convenience store (or a donut shop), pull in and seek help.
If another driver is enraged enough to follow you and ride your bumper, stopping on the side of the road to discuss things won’t work out well for you.
If the other car is occupied by multiple people, be on guard for a potential carjacking. Especially if they bump your car with theirs.
Your car is your best weapon. Use it to escape. If the other driver has escalated to the point of driving you off the road or blocking your only avenue of escape, that’s probably the time to reach for your safety rescue tool.
Try to use your vehicle as cover and do whatever it takes to survive until the police arrive.
I’ve seen a couple of incidents in my time and been the subject of road rage. Once, thirty years ago, I crested a hill to see one driver less than a half-car length behind another car, honking and swerving back and forth. She brake-checked him and he slammed into her car.
They stopped and as I drove past, I saw him emerge from his car, run up to her door and pull it open. Seeing no other traffic anywhere, I pulled a U-turn and parked behind the two cars while calling 9-1-1. As I did so, the man stopped screaming at the woman and chilled out to some degree. I stayed and talked with the cop and gave him my information and a statement.
A month later I got a call from an insurance company. I chuckled. Yes, I was available to give them a statement, which I did. When I found out it was the aggressor’s insurance company, I suggested they pay the woman everything she wanted and dump their customer because he was, in my opinion, a hotheaded lunatic.
More recently (aside from the attempted hit and run driver who threatened me after he finally stopped) I had a driver upset because I beeped my horn to let him know not to back out into oncoming traffic (me). Moments later, I saw him screaming up behind me and he laid on the horn.
At the next intersection, he swerved around me and back into my lane, missing a collision by inches. At that point, I called 9-1-1. I saw him looking back at me in his rearview and suspect he figured out my phone call wasn’t to my dearly departed mother and he drove away.
That was a happy ending for everyone.
Using force, especially deadly force, should always be your very last resort. Nothing good comes from a defensive gun use except that you will hopefully live another day.
Having written that, you have foot-tons of energy under your right foot if someone — an angry road rager or a common criminal — runs up on your car with a weapon in their hand. Don’t be afraid to make them a hood ornament if circumstances require it for you to escape with your life.