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Do not engage with road rage

Motorists who trigger road rage incidents are impulsive, easily angered, quick to blame others and may even suffer from a psychiatric disorder.

At least that’s what several psychological reports seem to be saying about the overly aggressive drivers on our roads.

The best way to deal with them, police officials say, is to avoid them at all costs.

“First and foremost make every attempt to get out of their way,” said Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller.

A recent string of road rage incidents in the Fredericksburg area has shined a spotlight on aggressive driving.

There have been a rash of incidents in recent weeks, and several involved guns.

The most recent one occurred when a Unionville man was charged with displaying a handgun during a road-rage incident in Fredericksburg.

The incident took place near Central Park and it involved one car cutting off another and each driver gesturing at the other. The Unionville man then waved a gun around, police said. He was charged with brandishing a firearm, aggressive driving and two counts of child endangerment, because two children were in his car.

The other incident with a gun also occurred in the city.

A city man said another driver had showed a weapon during an argument that followed a near collision.

During the argument, the Ford driver lifted his shirt to show a handgun in his waistband.

Another incident occurred following the July Fourth fireworks show at Pratt Park, when a 64-year-old man from Spotsylvania County was assaulted in a hit-and-run car accident, Bledsoe said.

While stopped in heavy traffic on U.S. 1, his car was rear-ended by a Honda, police said.

The victim was punched in the face when he told the Honda driver he was going to call the police.

AAA Mid-Atlantic and local law enforcement officials say you can reduce incidents of road rage and avoid becoming a victim if you follow these easy tips:

Don’t cut off another driver.

Don’t drive slowly in the left-hand lane. AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Tammy Arnette suggests drivers use their signals to let other drivers know of their intentions. If you are in the left lane and someone wants to pass, move over and let them by.

Don’t be a tailgater.

“Do not start driving aggressively by tailgating or honking the horn in response to bad behavior or bad driving on the other person’s part,” said Natatia Bledsoe, city police spokeswoman.

Drivers should allow at least a two-second space between your car and the car ahead, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. If the car in front of you is going too slowly and you cannot pass—pull back and allow more space, not less. This way, if the driver does something unexpected, you will have time to get out of the way. If you feel like you are being tailgated, signal and pull over to let the other vehicle go by.

Don’t engage or respond.

“Try to get away from the person and do not engage them or return any gesture,” said Capt. Jeff Pearce of the Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office. “Throwing back the finger at them is like you are accepting their challenge.”

Avoid gesturing, even if it is as simple as shaking your fist in anger. Use your horn rarely, if ever. Refuse to become angry at aggressive drivers. Instead, if they try to pick a fight, give them as much room and distance on the road as possible. Never, pull to the side of the road to try and “settle things.”

Avoid eye contact.

“Eye contact can sometimes enrage an aggressive driver,” Geller said. Looking or staring at another driver can turn an impersonal encounter into a duel.

Alert authorities.

If you believe you are being followed by an aggressive driver, use your cellphone or pull into a safe, well-lit place (such as a police station, convenience store or shopping center) to call police.

“Stay on the phone with 911 dispatchers and they will instruct you on what to do, and they will dispatch units to you,” Pearce said.

Get help. Anger management classes teach effective techniques that can reduce aggressive-driving attitudes and behavior. Self-help books on anger management and stress reduction can also be helpful, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419

Avoiding road rage

Avoid aggressive driving by planning ahead and giving yourself extra time:

• Concentrate. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by talking on your cellular phone, eating, drinking or putting on makeup.

• Relax. Tune the radio to your favorite relaxing music. Music can calm your nerves and help you to enjoy your time in the car.

• Drive the Posted Speed Limit. Fewer crashes occur when vehicles are traveling at or about the same speed.

• Identify Alternate Routes. Try mapping out an alternate route. Even if it looks longer on paper, you may find it is less congested.

• Use Public Transportation. Public transportation can give you some much-needed relief from life behind the wheel.

• Just Be Late. If all else fails, just be late.

— National Highway Traffic Safety Administration