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Here’s what to do if you’re a target of road rage

Art Markman from the University of Texas at Austin said America’s “watchword right now really needs to be grace.”

By Kelli Smith

Cars drive
Cars drive along Carbondale Street near Union Pacific Railroad tracks in Joppa, on Oct. 7 in Dallas. / Photo Credit: Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer

With more vehicles on the road since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to stay-at-home orders and closures nationwide, experts and police believe road rage is at an all-time high.

Call police if you see an aggressive driver putting others in danger, and give yourself time to reach your destination so you’re not rushing on the road. People should avoid changing lanes at the last minute and should always use a turn signal to avoid involvement in road rage, according to Dallas police.

Here’s what police and Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says people should do if they encounter an aggressive driver or road-rage incident:

Don’t escalate the problem

Oftentimes in road rage incidents, there’s an escalation, Markman said. One driver does something, which prompts the other to respond, and it escalates from there, he said.

Dallas police said people should “never tailgate” and should avoid honking their horn when possible. People should refrain from making an obscene gesture or acting angrily on the road, Markman said.

“It’s hard to calm somebody else,” he added. “The behavior you can control is your own.”

Try to get out of the situation

If the situation escalates, Markman said people should try to get away from the aggressive driver. People can slow their car or turn on a side street or into a crowded parking lot to distance themselves, he said.

“Do as much as possible to signal that you’re not interested in engaging,” Markman said. “You’re not trying to do something that’s turning this into a race — that’s turning this into something dangerous.”

Calm down

The best thing you can do during a road-rage incident is calm down, Markman said. He said there have been many stressors nationwide since the COVID-19 pandemic, and America appears to be low in resilience — so people need to show more grace.

If there’s a driver that does something to upset you, you should take a deep breath and “just let it go,” Markman said.

road rage

If someone follows you, go to your local law enforcement agency

Dallas police said drivers should stay in a well-lit, public area or should go to the nearest police substation if someone continues to follow you after a couple turns.

Clarification 6:52 p.m. Oct. 13: In an earlier version of the graphic accompanying this story, Dallas police originally said they investigated 16 homicides involving road rage since 2021. When asked for more details, Dallas police released data that showed there were at least 17 homicides involving road rage since 2021. The data discrepancies from Dallas police illustrate the difficulty in determining how often road rage occurs.

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