It happens to everyone. You’re driving along, and suddenly another driver does something so idiotic, so nonsensical, so incredibly frustrating — you feel like you might lose it. Some may shoot glares, curse, make rude hand gestures, or even yell in an attempt to communicate their frustration.

Unfortunately, the other driver often returns that rage, and both leave the situation with a ruined day. Other times, these anger-filled moments escalate into serious incidents. A brake check turns into a duel, a race, or even a more serious incident like a crash.

Fortunately, this can be avoided. Taking steps to reduce your road rage can make you a happier driver — and also a safer one. Below are a few tips to prevent road rage and what to do when you encounter it.

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Preventing road rage

Slow down

This is the most fundamental and straightforward cure for road rage. The faster you’re traveling, the less time other drivers have to react. What seems to you like someone cutting you off may just be the other driver underestimating your speed. This is especially important in heavy traffic. Each driver is keeping an eye on dozens of cars while they make decisions, and drivers hate to be surprised. When you surprise another driver, that can lead to anger, which can lead to road rage. A simple fix is to take your foot off the gas a little.

Be a strategic driver

When people hear “defensive driving,” they think about driving slowly with both hands on the wheel and staying out of other cars’ way. Sure, this may keep you safe, but in reality, almost no one does this at all times.

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Instead, consider being a “strategic driver.” Keep your eyes on the road and on the lookout for people driving erratically, obstacles in the road, and stopped traffic down the road. Noticing these hazards too late can cause problems, potentially leading to anger from you and other drivers.

Remember, they’re also a regular person

There’s a reason people tend to get angrier more quickly online and in the car. The more you separate two people, the easier it is to forget the other person is, in most ways, just like you. They may have made a mistake this time or done something less than polite while driving, but keep in mind that they might have had a bad day or also recently encountered a frustrating driving situation. So, next time someone cuts you off, forgive them. They might even realize their mistake and feel sorry.

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When road rage happens

Don’t escalate

Sometimes the rage just can’t be avoided. When this happens, do whatever you can to move on and separate you and your vehicle from the other driver. Don’t instigate the other driver further by using rude hand gestures, brake checking or following too closely.

If you need a distraction or to calm down, turn up the music, call someone (In hands-free), or focus on getting to your destination. Most incidents are over as fast as they start, so dealing with the anger is the biggest hurdle.

Don’t pull over

Unless you’re at a red light or stop sign, keep going, putting as much distance between you and the other driver as possible to do safely. Pulling over in a parking lot or the side of the road could be construed as an invitation for a face-to-face confrontation.

If you feel unsafe, contact law enforcement

If a road rage incident turns scary and you’re being followed, harassed, tailgated, or threatened, call 911 or pull into a police station, which will likely cause the other driver to move on.

The best cure for road rage is to take steps to avoid it. Going slower, keeping an eye out for aggressive drivers, and forgiving others’ mistakes are all great ways to keep a cool head while out on the road. Remember, no confrontation is worth getting your point across or getting in a wreck.

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