Road Rage: Definition and Consequences

The definition of road rage is angry or violent behavior that takes aggressive driving to an extreme. Road rage examples include making rude hand gestures, sudden braking in front of other cars, or confronting other drivers angrily. Unfortunately, road rage can lead to property damage, injuries, death, and criminal charges. Ensure you know how to avoid road rage by keeping yourself calm and avoiding aggressive drivers.

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UPDATED: Jan 26, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jan 26, 2022Fact Checked
Here's What You Need to Know

  • Road rage describes angry and violent behaviors more extreme than typical aggressive driving
  • The consequences of road rage could include property damage, injuries, death, and criminal charges
  • You can avoid road rage incidents by making sure that you are not angry or impatient in the car, being considerate of others, and avoiding contact with aggressive drivers
  • Unfortunately, there has been an increase in road rage incidents causing injuries and death more often than ever. Road rage can create dangerous situations for the aggressive driver, their passengers, and the others on the road around them. And having a black mark on your driving record will affect your car insurance rates.

    You must understand how to keep yourself and others calm on the road. You should also make sure you’re protected with car insurance. Read more below to learn about the road rage definition, causes, and consequences, and how you can make efforts to avoid road rage. 

    Enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above to compare car insurance quotes and make sure you’re covered in case of a road rage accident.

    What is the definition of road rage?

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the road rage definition is “the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.”

    Aggressive driving is the act of committing dangerous on-the-road behaviors. Examples of aggressive driving include following too closely, speeding, running stoplights, and more. On the other hand, road rage is aggressive driving taken to the extreme.

    Road rage examples include nudging a bumper with your vehicle, sudden purposeful braking in front of another car, forcing a driver off the road, or exiting your vehicle aggressively or violently.

    A significant difference between aggressive driving and road rage is that aggressive driving may be a traffic violation, while road rage is a crime.

    Some factors are common in road rage incidents. For example, traffic delays (such as heavy traffic or sitting at a red light) can make a driver impatient, which could also be further increased if they are running late. 

    Being anonymous in your behavior is another element that can make people feel more comfortable engaging in risky actions. For example, most drivers think that they can get away with cutting people off or making rude gestures since they are unlikely to see the other driver again.

    Other factors could include disregarding the law and others’ safety or being regularly exposed to road rage.

    One study looked into road rage psychology and personality. It found that road rage personality traits may include more open, neurotic, or conscientious people. 

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    What are the consequences of road rage?

    One of the most common consequences of road rage is an accident that causes property damage, injuries, and sometimes even death. 

    Speeding, which is one of the most common road rage and aggressive driving behaviors, can result in accidents such as rear-ending another driver, sideswiping another car, rolling over after taking a curve too fast, or head-on accidents with other vehicles or objects.

    These types of accidents could result in the following types of injuries:

    • Traumatic brain injury (TBI) — A concussion is a mild type of TBI. Other serious injuries could also occur, such as an object piercing through the skull.
    • Neck, shoulder, and back injuries — Even minor damage to the spine or neck could result in long-term neurological damage. Some injuries may require physical therapy or surgery.
    • Fractures — Bone fractures could take up to six to eight weeks to heal. If a fracture breaks through the skin, there is also risk of an infection.
    • Strains, sprains, and soft tissue injuries — While these injuries may not be too harmful in and of themselves, you should still consider having them checked by a medical professional to ensure you don’t have a more severe injury.
    • Cuts, scrapes, and bruises — Again, some of these injuries may not be that serious. However, they can be uncomfortable and could have a risk of infection.

    When an accident is severe, it can ultimately lead to death, whether it happens immediately or a victim later succumbs to their injuries. Unfortunately, there are also many incidents in which a person becomes so violently angry that he or she kills someone on purpose.

    Of course, if you are the driver who causes these accidents, you can face serious consequences, such as prison, fines, community service, loss of your license, and more. You may lose the car insurance discounts you qualify for and may have your insurance policy canceled altogether.

    How can I avoid road rage?

    There are many things you can do to avoid road rage, whether you feel that you are the one who becomes angry quickly or you encounter another driver who is driving dangerously.

    First, you should ensure that you leave yourself plenty of time to get where you need to go. This step will help you avoid becoming impatient or trying to rush while driving. If you are already angry or impatient, try taking a minute to calm yourself down before getting on the road.

    While you’re driving, try to be more patient with other drivers by considering their points of view. For example, if they are going slowly, they could be lost. Try not to follow them too closely, and don’t use your horn unless there is something important you are trying to communicate.

    It would also help if you avoided rude hand gestures, but make it a priority to use positive hand gestures, such as waving when a driver lets you merge. And, if you’re in a situation where you or another driver has become aggressive, don’t stop for a confrontation.

    Reciprocating aggressive behavior can escalate the situation. You should try your best to ignore aggressive drivers while still being aware of their actions. Try your best to keep your distance. If you’re worried about being followed or having a confrontation, carefully drive to the closest police station.

    Having car insurance is essential to protecting you and your car in a road rage incident. Enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below to find affordable car insurance rates now.

    Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

    A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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    Written by Laura Berry
    Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

    Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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    Reviewed by Joel Ohman
    Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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