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Scary drivers! What you need to know about road rage.

Byline: Jayleen R. Heft, PropertyCasualty360.com

Incidents of screaming, rude gestures, and sometimes even violence are reported frequently on our roadways. And unfortunately, it doesn't look as though this problem is going away any time soon.

In July, a 44-year-old Florida man was shot dead in front of his wife, daughter and grandson after a road rage incident in which both sides called police on the other. The shooting, and the events leading up to it, were captured on 911 recordings.

'Driving like an idiot'

Robert Doyle was driving his truck in Citrus County when he called 911 to say another driver was "trying to run me off the road." Meanwhile, Candelerio Gonzalez, was on the same road. His wife, Cathy Gonzalez, called 911 to report that another motorist was "driving like an idiot."

Related: The 9 deadliest driving behaviors, by the numbers

The victim, Candelerio, followed the other driver home to get his address, despite warnings from the 911 operator not to follow Doyle. They ended up in front of the house of the alleged shooter, 51-year-old Robert Doyle.

You never know who has a gun

Doyle allegedly fired five shots at Candelerio. He was hit once in the chest and three times in the back. Candelerio died in the yard while, police say, Doyle pointed his gun at Cathy Gonzalez and the two children, and made them get out of the car to wait for the cops.

Doyle faces charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault, and has been released from jail with an ankle bracelet, CNN reports.

Let's take a look at how road rage can impact auto insurance, review the driving behaviors that lead to problems and learn tips for dealing with aggressive driving and road rage.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Aggressive driving vs. road rage

Although defining road rage is complicated and varies by jurisdiction, generally, the difference between aggressive driving and road rage is that aggressive driving is a traffic offense while road rage is a criminal offense. Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as occurring when "an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property."

On the other hand, road rage is generally defined as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by a vehicle's operators or passenger(s) upon another person, when the assault was precipitated by an incident, which occurred on a roadway. Road rage requires willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others." (See, University of Central Arkansas Police Department)

In this photo provided by the Leesburg, Va., Police Department vehicles remain on the scene following an accident near Leesburg on April 17, 2015. David Ray Godfrey of Waterford, Va., was charged with attempted malicious wounding. He was arrested and released on bond. Police say they received multiple calls about a road-rage incident between a Porsche and another car on the Route 7 Bypass. (Leesburg Police Department via AP)

How road rage can impact your insurance premium

Because your car insurance rate is partly determined by your driving history, a road-rage incident, when it shows up on your record as a criminal offense, is a serious red flag. Insurers may charge more for the policy to cover the added risk posed by a driver with any kind of criminal driving history.

Related: The case, the policy and the decision: No coverage for road rage

Road rage can also cause problems for your claim process if you should happen to be involved in an auto accident, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Road rage is listed as an exclusion in many auto insurance policies because any damage stemming from aggressive driving isn't truly an accident, but rather it was caused by risky behavior.

In this photo released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, an unidentified police official leads Erich Nowsch, 19, from a car to police headquarters for questioning in Las Vegas, Feb. 19, 2015. Nowsch was arrested on suspicion of murder after SWAT teams surrounded his home a block away from the residence of Tammy Meyers who was killed in a mysterious road-rage incident. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)

Examples of aggressive driving that can lead to road rage

Aggressive driving is generally recognized as a progression of unlawful driving actions that can escalate to road rage, such as:

* Exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 mph or driving too fast for conditions.

* Tailgating excessively; failure to leave a safe distance between vehicles.

* Driving in the left lane excessively at the posted speed limit - blocking the passing lane.

* Making hand or finger gestures at other drivers.

* Unnecessary use of high beam headlights.

* Honking at other drivers blocking or slowing traffic.

* Abrupt, un-signaled changes of lanes.

* Failure to use turn signals when turning.

* Flashing lights to signal a desire to pass.

* Failure to yield right of way.

* Using an emergency lane to pass or passing on a shoulder.

* Running a red light or stop sign.

* Making a right turn on red without stopping.

Traffic stacks up in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5, Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Arvin, Calif., after storms unleashed flash flood and debris flows across lanes on Thursday. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

When and where does road rage occur?

According to the University of Central Arkansas Police Department:

* Survey results indicate that road rage is most likely to occur on a Friday afternoon. It's during the afternoon peak traffic hours that drivers are most apt to be both fatigued and rushed.

* Road rage incidents occur most frequently during the summer months.

* Urban areas are the most frequently reported locations for road rage incidents.

* Road rage happens most frequently in moderately congested traffic, perhaps because heavily congested traffic conditions lower driver's expectations.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Road rage statistics

Statistics compiled from the NHTSA and the AutoVantage auto club illustrate that aggressive driving and road rage are causing serious problems on our roads. SafeMotorist.com notes:

* 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.

* 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.

* Males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage.

* Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves.

* 2% of drivers admit to trying to run an aggressor off the road.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Drivers need to calm down

At least half of U.S. drivers need to calm down. According to the Expedia 2015 Road Rage Report, a yearly analysis of driving etiquette:

* 26% of respondents said they have yelled or used profanity at another driver.

* 17% percent of respondents said they have made a rude gesture, while 53% of respondents said they have been on the receiving end of one.

* 4% of respondents said they have exited their vehicle to engage angrily with another motorist.

* 13% of respondents have felt physically threatened by another driver.

Americans offered multiple reasons for driving misbehavior: 21% reported that they were running late. Fourteen percent felt provoked by other drivers, and 13% felt triggered by another driver who wasn't paying attention.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Road rage quiz

You may like to think that road rage is something that only happens to other people, but the truth is, many of us are guilty of aggressive behavior on the road. SafeMotorist.com suggests you ask yourself these four questions and answer honestly:

* Do you regularly drive over the speed limit, or try to "beat" red lights because you are in a hurry?

* Do you tailgate or flash your headlights at a driver in front of you that you believe is driving too slowly?

* Do you honk the horn often?

* Do you ever use obscene gestures or otherwise communicate angrily at another driver?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's possible you are susceptible to road rage. Many times when a road rage incident occurs it's because the people are under stress in other areas of their lives. The addition of congested traffic can add to stress, which then explodes when you perceive that someone else on the road has acted in an aggressive way, whether intentional or not.

Traffic comes to a halt as motorists struggle to enter lanes Friday, Feb. 20, 2015, on Interstate 25 northbound out of downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Crowding causes aggression

One study estimates that more than half of all drivers have experienced a surge of road rage at some point, although not all ram the offender's rear bumper, pull a pistol, or run someone off the road. Still, tens of thousands of accidents happen each year because of aggressive driving, which is also a leading cause of death for young children, according to WebMD.

"You know those studies of overcrowding in rats?" asks Barry Markell, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Park Ridge, Ill., who has treated many perpetrators and victims of road rage. "Well, rats are usually OK until there is one rat too many in an enclosed space, and then they all turn on each other. There are far more people on the road than ever before. Crowding causes aggression."

Road ragers don't see the offender as a person. "They 'thingify' the person," Markell says.

Ava Cadell, Ph.D., a psychologist and instructor at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, Calif., agrees. "The heavy metal of a car is a safe haven. Road ragers don't think about the consequences or even about other people on the road as real people with real families."

(Photo: Thinkstock)

New York City drivers rank as nation's rudest

Findings from the Expedia 2015 Road Rage Report, found that among major cities, New York City was cited as having the rudest drivers according to 42% of Americans. Thirty-two percent chose Los Angeles drivers, 18% felt the nation's rudest drivers could be found in Chicago, while 16% said the same of Washington, D.C. Only 1% of Americans felt that Portland, Ore., drivers were the nation's rudest.

The Auto Insurance Center, a car insurance news and information site, compiled data on every fatal car accident in the U.S. recorded by the NHTSA Fatal Accident Reporting System from 2009 to 2013, and found the following five states had the most fatal crashes caused by road rage:

1. Indiana

2. South Carolina

3. Delaware

4. Colorado

5. Montana

(Photo: Thinkstock)

How to handle road rage

If you find that you have agitated another driver, whether the fault is truly yours or not, don't react to or retaliate against the other driver on the road, according to SafeMotorist.com. Engaging with the other driver will only cause the situation to escalate. Remind yourself that the other driver is just bad at handling stress, avoid eye contact and continue to practice safe driving habits.

All you can do is be a considerate, aware driver who follows the rules of the road. While it may be difficult in the heat of the moment, don't give in to feelings of anger or rage on the road. Think twice before you honk the horn or flip that finger, because you never know what may set off the person in the cars around you. Getting home or to work safely is more important than teaching someone a dangerous lesson.

Police say if you are involved in a road rage incident, stay in your car and call for help. If you can, drive to a well-lit area with people or to a local police or fire station.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Ways to avoid road rage encounters

Here are some additional pointers to help avoid road rage encounters:

* Don't assume other drivers are evil.Sometimes, people make mistakes, or they might be driving more slowly for a reason. Do not assume that they are driving slowly just to annoy you. Put yourself in the other driver's shoes.

* Don't honk your horn insistently.It might make you feel better, but it's really kind of silly. And when everyone does it in a traffic jam, it's really annoying and increases everyone's stress level.

* If someone is tailgating you, don't aggravate yourself and the other driver by playing cat and mouse with your speed. Move out of the way and let the other driver pass you.

* Cranks some tunes, not the engine. Instead of listening to your own muttering, try listening to music as it can help keep you calm.

* Leave space to pull around the car in front of you. This seems simple, but in heavy traffic, people tend to drive bumper-to-bumper. Leaving some wiggle room can reduce vulnerability if the driver in front of you gets aggressive. Allow at least a two-second space between your vehicle and the one ahead of you.

* Try not to run late. When you're in a hurry, your patience is short, and you're much more likely to become aggravated. Try to give yourself a few extra minutes to get where you need to go.

* Avoid cutting other drivers off in traffic.

* Signal several hundred feet before you change lanes or make a turn.

* Avoid making any gestures or eye contact with another driver.

* Be courteous in the use of high-beam headlights.

* Obey speed limits.

* Drive in the right or middle lane; pass on the left.

* Stop at stop signs and red lights; don't run yellow lights.

* Don't block intersections.

* Report any aggressive driving incidents to the police immediately.

Important note: Police and safety officials say drivers snapping pictures or videos of others is unsafe and could lead to dangerous road-rage incidents.

If you are prone to road rage

* Get sufficient rest. Lack of sleep leads to loss of control.

* Limit alcohol Alcohol can make you rageful, not to mention impair your driving in other ways.

* Play soothing music. This can really help.

* Be aware of your driving. Leon James, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii and author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare, recommends watching yourself--what makes you angry, how long do you stay angry. Tell yourself, "It was not their fault--it was the guy in front of them."

* Put pictures of your loved ones on the dashboard. You want to come home to them.

* Remember, this behavior can cost you in more ways than one. Road rage can have a high price tag even if no one is hurt or killed: tickets, lawyers, court costs, damage to vehicles, and higher insurance rates.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Don't engage other drivers

* Avoid engaging other drivers, even if they have done something to make you angry or vice versa.

* Put as much distance between you and the other driver as possible and avoid making eye contact.

* Never pull off a roadway to confront another driver.

* Keep your doors locked and give yourself room at intersections to drive away.

* If possible, take down the license plate number of the vehicle and report the driver's behavior to police so they won't hurt themselves or someone else.

The infographic on the next page reveals the most irritating bad habits behind the wheel that can lead to road rage, according to the Expedia 2015 Road Rage Report survey.

(Source: Expedia)
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Publication:Property and Casualty 360
Date:Oct 20, 2015
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