Another major threat to worry about while driving is Road Rage. This will generally result from some perceived driving error, such as cutting another driver off, pulling out in front of them, driving too slow in the passing lane or riding someone’s bumper aggressively. However, it may be the result of some other action that is considered offensive or insulting such as flipping someone off or staring at some guy’s girlfriend. Whatever the cause, anger is the result and the person who engages in road rage is not good at controlling their anger. In fact, they most likely are someone who vents their anger routinely and doesn’t mind engaging in violence to begin with. Also, if they feel insulted or shamed in any way, the ego will kick in and they will most likely let that compel them toward increasing levels of
That being said, most often with Road Rage incidents the first thing YOU will have to do is resist the temptation of your own ego, because as soon as someone gets nasty with you your ego is going to want to go tit for tat and escalate right along with them. If you want to avoid conflict, a potentially violent encounter AND possible jail time, entertaining your ego by responding to the bad guy’s angry words and actions is NOT an option. Consider this: if you contribute to the altercation in any way by yelling back, making obscene hand gestures or anything that exacerbates or escalates the situation, you won’t be able to claim pure self-defense and if force is used it will be considered, essentially, mutual combat, which means you are at least partially liable and responsible for injuries.
“Well what am I supposed to do?” you may ask. Well, do what Joel Lambert does on every show. Escape and Evade. Stopping and engaging is not going to end well. Even if you win, you may lose legally later. Even in a stand your ground state, if you voluntarily stop, get out and engage in an escalating argument which ends in violence you will probably be found liable for injuries inflicted to the other party. So if someone wants to pull up next to you and cuss and holler, don’t engage with them or do anything to escalate the situation. Immediately look for a way to escape and evade. Slow down, maybe they’ve blown their steam and will continue on. If they slow down too, though, that means they’re not done. They could just want to rant some more but they could also be ready to escalate. Can you find a side street or exit to turn off on while they’re ahead of you and create distance? Is your family with you? It is your responsibility to prioritize your family’s safety over your own ego. If you have a gun prepare it, or even better, let a skilled passenger prepare it and you focus on.
Another issue to think through is cell phone cameras. It is very common for people to video the road raging individual. This is not a bad idea. It is evidence if something ends up going to court. However, you should be discreet, not blatantly obvious. If you hold the camera right up to the window in plain sight it will often aggravate the person’s attitude and illicit an escalating response to show you they don’t give a crap what you’re doing. Basically, it’s a challenge to their ego and they will ratchet it up to assert their ego over yours. Avoid this by being subtle and covertly filming their stupidity and
Watch these two videos and take note of their actions and the consequences. How many of them actually try to escape and evade? If they stop moving what happens?
Road Rage In America Part 1
Road Rage In America Part 2
Notice that stopping and staying in one place consistently gives the rage-filled idiots an opportunity to come back and attack you or your vehicle. If you can’t go forward, reverse out and go another route. If both parties exit their vehicles almost without fail a fight will occur and your actions will be viewed as you participating in the escalation of events. If you initiate the road rage activity and end up getting hurt the primary liability will be on you. Sitting stationary waving a gun and arguing when you could just drive away is irresponsible and talking smack to someone with a gun ain’t too bright. Also, not calling 911 is a bad idea. You never know when friends may jump out to help or a weapon may be produced. You never know what kind of person you’re dealing with or how far they are willing to go. They could be a gang banger, a psychopath, a crazy person, or just a guy so fed up he doesn’t give a damn anymore. You really never know, and gambling against the odds is never a smart strategy. At least get police rolling in your direction in case things go completely south. Bottom line: if you can drive away, drive away. Control the ego and find an out. Escape and Evasion is priority number one. Do not engage unless you absolutely have.
Another aspect to consider is verbal tactics. One possible way to help diffuse the angry individual is to acknowledge wrong if you are guilty of it. If you screwed up and made a mistake in your driving (cutting someone off or pulling out in front of them, etc) and they want to holler, just swallow the ego and say you’re sorry. With a lot of people a mouthed “I’m sorry” with hands up / palms out can deflate their rage enough to effectively deescalate the situation and get them to move on. For others there is nothing you can say or do to dispel their anger. Evade ASAP.
A couple of years ago I was driving back from visiting a college when my daughter was scoping out different ones to pick from. I accidentally turned left in front of a guy at a stop light to get back up on the highway. He was stopped and I thought he had a red light when we both had green lights, but he had the right of way. I realized my error right as I entered the intersection. There was no near accident or anything but it pissed him off that easily. Right after I merged onto the highway he flew up next to my door, driving with his left hand as he practically leaned all the way into the passenger seat shaking his right fist and screaming his lungs out, rage filling his pure thug face. I tried the “I’m sorry” hands up sign but it didn’t help. He kept on screaming. I squeezed the brake and dropped back quickly and let him shoot further up. He slowed down but drove a steady speed. After about 10 seconds or so he suddenly started slowing down more and more. I slowed down as well, knowing good and well that if I passed him it would turn into a race and also present an opportunity for a Drive By shooting if he had chosen to retrieve a gun and prepare himself. I spotted an exit right ahead. As soon as he passed it I waited to the last second, ducked off onto it and punched the gas. I shot down the off ramp made a couple of quick turns and pulled into a lot behind some other larger vehicles. I made sure I had my firearm ready and waited to see if he would show up or not. We got back up on the highway after about 10 minutes and never saw him again.
Now, if I told you that I didn’t want to respond to his anger with some of my own I’d be a big fat liar. When he acted out I wanted to show him who the badass was, just who he was screwing with. But I practiced what I preach and I tried to diffuse it. When I slowed down and then he slowed down everything in me wanted to blow his doors off and scream down the highway. I distinctly remember the thought process tempting me, saying: “You’ve got every right to be on this road as he does. You can speed on past him and you are in the right. It’s a free country. Don’t let this a-hole cause your trip to last longer and take away your right to freely travel on this road.” You see a pattern here? The ego will always want to assert its rights! The truth, though, is that those “rights” are not worth the risk of your family suffering violence or of you ending up in jail because it escalated too far. I knew that if I passed him I would expose my wife and daughter to the possible risk of gunfire and definitely to the risk of a high speed aggressive chase as he tried to keep up with me. It wasn’t worth it. I waited for an opportunity to escape and evade, while simultaneously prepared to P.I.T. him out (see my last article for details on that maneuver) if he dropped back and demonstrated any threat. Thankfully I was able to quickly escape and evade the idiot without any real problems.
Below is two videos that show a single road rage incident. One crazy lady pursues two young girls. Listen to the difference between the driver and the passenger. How do you think they do?
Crazy Lady on I-80 Part 1
Crazy Lady on I-80 Part 2
Overall, they did an excellent job, especially the passenger who holds it all together and keeps her friend from totally losing it and freezing up. She gives clear instructions to the driver the whole time and calls 911 and tells them in detail what is happening. At one point she tells her friend to just keep moving. She never lets the driver just sit there once they decide to take off. They head for a rendezvous point with Law Enforcement which now helps eliminate the possibility of further violence. With someone completely stopping I am definitely going to shoot past them and try and create some distance. Unfortunately for these girls their little car was no match for the horsepower of the other vehicle so they couldn’t keep out in front of it. Regardless of their handicap, they still managed, under great stress, to keep going and find a way to eventually escape after continued attempts at evasion. Job well done.
I would have probably left, even if it was an accident. Talk to 911 and let them know the circumstances and find a rendezvous point and it won’t be Hit and Run. But man, this guy has composure….
In conclusion, remember these primary tips for avoiding or escaping road rage. First, try not to do things that will piss people off (kind of goes without saying, but…). Second, control your ego. Do not go tit for tat. Three, keep moving. Do not stop and sit there and whatever you do don’t get out of your vehicle unless you have been immobilized and feel a threat is imminent and you need to exit the vehicle to deal with it. Fourth, don’t try to handle it all by yourself. Call 911 and find a rendezvous point with Law Enforcement. If nothing else it gives further proof that you are trying to avoid a confrontation. Fifth, Evade, don’t engage, unless a threat presents itself and you have to address it. Even then, try to use your vehicle as a primary weapon and keep moving.
About the Author
After almost 12 years as a Police Officer and Patrol Sergeant, including 3.5 years on a SWAT team, Mike went to work at ACADEMI (formerly known as Blackwater) full time in 2006 teaching High Speed, Tactical and Off Road Driving as well as Hand to Hand Combatives. He has experience in Unarmed Close Protection security work, CONUS and OCONUS. He has been in martial arts for 25 years and currently trains Sayoc Kali and teaches Sayoc classes in Portsmouth, VA. He also teaches Avoiding Violence / Attack Recognition and Use of Force Legal classes. He recently became a contributing writer for Harris Publications and has written articles for Personal and Home Defense, Guns and Weapons for LE and Survivor's Edge. You can contact Mike through his Facebook page: Hard Target Sayoc Kali Training Group where he routinely dissects attack videos for pre-assault indicators amongst other content.