What is classed as road rage?

Gridlock traffic, slow vehicles, inconsiderate drivers… there are many different factors that could lead to a driver developing so-called ‘road rage'.

And those factors aren’t always related to being on the road, either; lack of sleep or a busy day in the office could put us in a bad mood and cause us to act irrationally or aggressively behind the wheel.
But what exactly are the signs of road rage? And can you receive a motoring conviction if you show signs of it? We answer these questions and more in this handy guide.

What exactly is road rage?

The Wikipedia page on road rage sums it up perfectly: it’s ‘aggressive or angry behaviour exhibited by a driver of a road vehicle’.

These behaviours include things like rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats, criminal damage and dangerous driving methods, and are designed to intimidate the other driver or release frustration.
The term road rage actually originated in the US in 1987-1988 from anchors at an LA-based TV station, when a string of freeway shootings took place on a number of freeways in the area.

The shooting sprees spurred a response from the American AAA Motor Club to its members on how to respond to drivers demonstrating road rage or making aggressive manoeuvers or gestures.

Why is road rage dangerous?

Road rage is dangerous simply for the fact that it causes people to take irresponsible risks, explains the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), like tailgating, speeding, undertaking or running red lights.

It’s these types of risks that significantly increase the chance of accidents and put people’s lives in danger.
RoSPA notes how good (and safe) driving demands a responsible attitude to other drivers along with high levels of observation, anticipation and concentration.

‘Our attitudes as drivers, how we deal with our own mistakes and our reaction to those made by other people, will influence our own safety and well-being and that of other road users around us,’ it explains.

Is road rage an offence?

Road rage is not technically against the law, but it could lead to driving in a manner that is punishable with a motoring conviction.

For instance, drivers could be convicted of dangerous or careless driving, which may result in a fine, penalty points, a driving ban or even time in prison for more serious cases.

If road rage resulted in a driver causing damage to the other driver’s car, or a physical altercation, that driver could be arrested for criminal damage or assault.
 A angry driver holding his head at the wheel

How can you prevent and deal with road rage?

Taking steps to tame your temper can lower the risk of you being involved in an altercation or accident, and the risk of making decisions that could endanger you and other road users.

RoSPA shares some top tips for preventing road rage and dealing with other drivers who may be seeing red.

  • Set off on journeys with plenty of time to spare, as this will prevent you from becoming stressed if you hit unexpected traffic.
  • Don’t overreact or panic about another driver’s error and poor attitude – in some instances that driver may not even know they’ve done something wrong. Try to stay away from them and focus on driving safely and legally.
  • Don’t get into conflict with another driver as it’s simply not worth it. Some drivers will actively seek out conflict or a reaction – just ignore them, as reacting can quickly make the situation very dangerous.
  • Try not to make eye contact with a driver experiencing road rage, as this can make the situation worse.
  • If you’re being tailgated by an impatient driver, don’t let them force you into speeding or driving at a speed you’re not comfortable with. The best thing to do is find a safe opportunity to let them pass.
  • If you notice that an angry driver has been following you for some time, the safest thing to do is make your way to a public place, busy street or police station. If you feel in danger then phone the police, and never let that driver follow you home.
  • Never get out of your car to deal with an angry driver – you put your safety at risk and the safety of your passengers. If the driver approaches your car, keep the windows shut and the doors locked and call for help (when safely pulled over).
  • If you feel stressed or angry following a road rage incident, stop to take some time out when you’re no longer in danger.
One way you can really help to curb feelings of road rage is to only get behind the wheel if you feel calm and in a good state of mind.

Driving when you feel upset, angry or exhausted not only raises the risk of road rage but can also hamper concentration on the road.
If you’re able to recognise when you’re feeling stressed, angry or impatient, then you’ll be able to better deal with these emotions.

It won’t hurt to occasionally reflect on your driving and think about how your mood or stress levels impacted your actions.

What to do if you’re a victim of road rage

If an angry driver makes a rude hand gesture at you or swears at you out of their window, this may be considered a crime.

However, as West Midlands Police notes, it’s unlikely that a prosecution will happen because of the lack of independent witnesses.
Though, if someone makes a genuine threat of violence, it’s possible that they could be charged with assault so you should report the incident to the local police. The same goes if the other driver causes deliberate damage to your car.

Convicted driver insurance from the Insurance Factory

The Insurance Factory specialises in helping drivers get back behind the wheel following a conviction – motoring or otherwise.
 Convicted driver insurance policies can be taken out by drivers convicted of offences including speeding, driving at a dangerous speed or in a dangerous manner, driving without insurance or reckless driving.
We understand that the past is the past. Rather than tarring all drivers with the same brush, we’ll consider your individual needs and circumstances to find you the right policy for the right price.
Get a convicted driver insurance quote today!