Understanding and preventing road rage: an essential guide for drivers

How can you prevent road rage? If you’re involved in an accident caused by road rage, are you covered by your car insurance policy? What if you’re the aggressive driver at fault?

Our guide answers all those questions and more, whether you feel frustrated on the roads, or you’re worried about the behaviour of other drivers.

How can you prevent road rage? If you’re involved in an accident caused by road rage, are you covered by your car insurance policy? What if you’re the aggressive driver at fault?

Our guide answers all those questions and more, whether you feel frustrated on the roads, or you’re worried about the behaviour of other drivers.

What are the signs of road rage? 

Road rage is common: 62% of drivers experience road rage, while 30% have experienced a face-to-face confrontation with another driver. 

Some common signs of road rage to look out for include:

  • speeding 
  • sudden braking 
  • tailgating, or not giving other drivers enough space 
  • impatient driving  
  • shouting and gesturing 
  • beeping horn or flashing headlights 

If you find yourself on the roads with someone nearby displaying this kind behaviour, try to remain calm and continue driving as you normally would. It may make you feel a little worried, so feel free to pull over where safe or change your route to avoid them. Or if you realise that you’re starting to lose your cool and drive recklessly, find a safe place to stop and calm down.

By recognising the signs of road rage, you can learn to identify them in other drivers – or even yourself – and help stop the situation from escalating.  

What are the most common causes of road rage?

Our research found that the most common causes of road rage were:

  • Tailgating (35%)
  • Slow driving (29%)
  • Witnessing a driver talking on the phone (29%)
  • Lack of indication (29%)

Why is road rage dangerous?

The consequences of road rage can be more severe than you might think. In the best-case scenario, you or another driver may shout in frustration and then go about your journeys, with everything forgotten in a few hours. But road rage can also lead to the following:

  • Accidents. By focusing on the cause of your anger, or another driver’s road rage, you pay less attention to the road, which can lead to mistakes and accidents.
  • Physical confrontation. It’s not unheard of for drivers to get out of their vehicles and show their aggression by engaging in a physical altercation.
  • Health issues. The stress caused by road rage can raise blood pressure levels. If this happens frequently, you may be diagnosed with long-term high blood pressure (hypertension). Uncontrolled, this can lead to health issues such as a weakened immune system, heart disease, stroke, aneurysm, and dementia.
  • More serious crimes, such as carjacking. Although rare, severe cases of road rage can result in this. 

What is carjacking?

Carjacking is a very dangerous crime where a vehicle is forcibly stolen from the driver while they are behind the wheel. Extreme cases of road rage could result in carjacking.

Can I claim for road rage accidents on my car insurance?

That depends. If you’re a victim of an accident caused by another motorist’s careless or dangerous driving, which can be a result of road rage, then you’ll most likely be covered.

  • If you have comprehensive cover, your insurer would pay for damage to the vehicle.
  • If the other driver has insurance, their insurer would normally cover damage to your car, and injury to you and your passenger.
  • If the other driver isn’t insured, you can still make a claim through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, which was set up to compensate victims of accidents caused by drivers who aren’t insured or can’t be found.

If your road rage caused you to drive carelessly or dangerously, and led to an accident, then your insurance provider is unlikely to pay for any damage to your car. They may even seek damages from you, to pay for any costs they have incurred to pay for third-party damage.

Any road rage accidents you cause will also probably lead to higher car insurance premiums in the future. Depending on how serious the incident is, it could lead to points on your licence, a driving ban or even a criminal conviction, although these would be for careless or dangerous driving, not for road rage itself. These penalties will all contribute towards higher premiums too. 

Is road rage illegal? 

It’s not illegal to be angry or stressed – it happens to us all. But if your road rage causes you to drive carelessly or dangerously and it causes a collision, you could be prosecuted for dangerous driving.

Likewise, if a driver victimises or assaults another motorist, or damages property as a result of road rage, these offences are punishable by law.

Our recent research shows that 75% of drivers believe road rage should be recognised as an offence in UK law.

How to deal with road rage

You can never control what other people are going to do on the road. But you can control your own behaviour. And there are some things you can do to keep yourself calm behind the wheel.

How to deal with your own road rage

  • Make sure you’re well enough to drive. Feeling tired can affect your ability to drive safely and anticipate what other road users may do. It can also make you more irritable and therefore more prone to road rage. 
  • Improve your concentration levels. Reduce the likelihood of potential distractions by keeping the radio at a reasonable volume and asking any unruly passengers to stay calm. The more you’re able to focus on the road, the more you’ll be able to anticipate and react to actions by other drivers that could prompt road rage.
  • Wait before reacting. It’s easy to do or say things without thinking them through. But this can lead to actions you may regret later. Take a deep breath and assess the situation.
  • Let it go. As much as we’d like to hope otherwise, all road users make mistakes. It’s natural to be annoyed by this, but don’t hold onto the frustration. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and let it go.
  • Respect the new Highway Code changes. Make sure you understand the rules, how they affect you, and why they’ve been introduced. It helps to appreciate that other road users are most at risk.

How to deal with the road rage of others

  • Try to stay calm. It’s easy to be provoked when someone else becomes aggressive. But, as we discussed earlier, the stress and panic of a road rage incident can lead to mistakes and accidents, so it’s worth making the effort to stay in control. Take deep breaths and pull over in a safe spot if you’re able to. This will give you a chance to calm down and put some distance between yourself and the angry driver.
  • Don’t react. As tempting as it can be to respond to someone else’s road rage with a choice word or gesture, you never know how they’ll retaliate.
  • Ignore any pressure. For example, if the angry driver is tailgating you, just allow them to pass when it’s safe, instead of responding to pressure to speed up.
  • Acknowledge mistakes. Regardless of whether you’ve made a mistake or not, sometimes it’s just easier to apologise and let it go. It may placate the other driver and prevent any further road rage.

Should I report aggressive drivers?

Yes, you should report aggressive drivers if you feel you’ve been victimised or have been assaulted by a driver with road rage. And if you see someone driving aggressively who could endanger pedestrians or other drivers, then you should also report them to the police.

When filing a complaint about road rage with the police, try to include as much detail as possible. But be aware that it’s very hard to prosecute an aggressive driver without hard evidence. For example, ideally there’d be footage from a dashcam or CCTV, or reliable witness statements.

What should I do if I’m involved in an accident involving an aggressive driver? 

You should call the police if you’ve been involved in an accident with an aggressive driver. Depending on the severity of the accident, they may arrest the driver for reckless driving.

In order to make an claim, you need:

  • Your personal details
  • Your policy number
  • Your car registration number
  • A description of the damage or loss
  • The other driver’s details, if you’ve been in an accident

You’d also need a crime reference number if you’d reported your car as stolen.

Here are some other actions you could also take: 

  • If it’s safe to do so and your car is stationary, make a note of the other driver’s car model and colour, and their licence plate number. If the driver fled the scene or is uninsured, record as much detail as you can.
  • Gather as much evidence as you can – road rage accidents can be hard to prove. If anyone saw what happened, see if they’d be willing to be a witness. Footage from a dashcam could help to support your statement. If you don’t have a dashcam, look out for any nearby CCTV cameras that could help.  
  • Call your insurance provider as soon as you can. They should explain what you’re covered for and the next steps in making your claim.

What are my rights if my road rage caused an incident?

If you cause an accident, your insurer is obliged to pay any third-party property or injury claims. If the accident was deliberate and this can be proved without a doubt, then damage to your own car may not be paid. Claims details are stored on the Motor Insurance Database, penalty points are recorded on your driving licence, and you’re likely to pay higher premiums on your insurance in the future.

Road rage and the new Highway Code changes

Changes to the Highway Code were introduced in January 2022.

There is now a hierarchy of road users. Road users who are most at risk in the event of a collision, such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, are at the top of the hierarchy. Likewise, road users who could cause the most damage in the event of a collision, such as lorries, passenger vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars and motorbikes, have the most responsibility.

Drivers must now give vulnerable road users the right of way in situations where they would have previously had the right of way. For example, drivers must now give way to pedestrians at junctions.

Drivers are also advised to use the hand furthest away when opening their door. This is known as the Dutch Reach, and is said to reduce the chances of a cyclist crashing into the door.

Cyclists are now expected to cycle in the middle of a lane if they can. Drivers are being asked to give them more space when overtaking. If they are travelling straight ahead at a junction, cyclists have the right of way over drivers waiting to turn into or out of a side road.

Although the Highway Code exists to keep all road users safe, these changes haven’t been without their detractors.

Those in favour of the changes say:

  • They’ll improve safety for vulnerable road users
  • Car and lorry drivers will take more responsibility to reduce the danger they can pose to other road users

While those not in favour of the changes say:

  • Not everyone is aware of them and so won’t know to act accordingly
  • Confusion around the new rules may lead to road rage, and accidents in more severe cases.

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