There is a difference between aggressive driving and road rage. Aggressive driving is a traffic offense, while road rage is a criminal offense.
Defining road rage is an important step to incorporating ways to manage this behavior in a fleet safety policy.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) defines road rage as “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator of one motor vehicle on the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle.”
The American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation defines road rage as “violent anger caused by the stress and frustration involved in driving a motor vehicle — a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior with an intention to cause physical harm.”

And, according to AAA, the two most common factors of road rage are rushing and congestion. Whether it is a fleet driver on a delivery run or a sales representative driving to a business meeting, these employees will likely face the two most common causes for road rage once on the road.

Research Offers Best Practices to Avoid Road Rage

Aggressive driving behavior includes driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit, running a red light, tailgating, erratic lane changing, and illegal passing. According to AAA’s 2013 survey, these actions are a factor in up to 56 percent of fatal crashes.

A separate AAA Foundation study looked at more than 10,000 road rage incidents committed over seven years and found they resulted in at least 218 murders and another 12,610 injury cases. When drivers explained why they became violent, the reasons were often trivial.

Fleet managers should review the research and incorporate it into their fleet safety policies. The following is a list of solutions AAA offers to avoid road rage:

  • Don’t offend. Four driving acts are the most likely to enrage other drivers: cutting them off, driving slowly in the left lane, tailgating, and gesturing obscenities.
  • Don’t engage. Steer clear of aggressive drivers. A­void eye contact with them, and, if you feel physically threatened, drive to a public building with people around. Use your horn for emergencies only.
  • Make time secondary. Employees should allow themselves a few extra minutes to be ahead of schedule, but even if he or she is running late, it is best to ask employees to simply make others wait.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Most people find relaxation in soothing music, a book on tape, radio news, or deep breathing.
  • Don’t take it personally. Instead of judging other drivers negatively, imagine why they may be speeding or swerving, such as hurrying to a hospital or dealing with a crying baby.

The Course of Action After Encountering Road Rage

Courses in anger management have been shown to reduce heart attacks, according to AAA. These same techniques can also help angry, aggressive drivers before employees fall under the fleet’s definition of road rage and potentially lose their job.

Drivers who successfully “reinvent” their approach to the road report dramatic changes in attitude and behavior, AAA said. Look for anger management courses as a method of recourse. Self-help books on stress reduction and anger management may also be helpful.