What Is Road Rage? How To Find Support For Anger While Driving

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated June 12, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

When you get your driver's license, it can feel like the world expands. The ability to drive may grant you more opportunities to see friends, explore new locations, and discover independence. However, while cars and other vehicles may offer freedom, they can also be dangerous. Many car accidents involve a form of unsafe driving behavior, including aggressive driving and "road rage."

Anger and rage-motivated unsafe behaviors on the road can be serious concerns, so it can be critical to take action to keep yourself and others safe while driving. To learn more about anger on the road, you may first learn what causes these feelings and then how to address them if you or someone you love lives with these challenges.

Address anger or overwhelm while driving with a professional

What is road rage?

Road rage refers to aggressive or confrontational behavior while driving, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Anger or rage on the road may be caused by another driver's actual or imagined transgression and can include hostile verbal exchanges, unsafe driving, and interpersonal violence. 

While road rage is not a recognized mental illness, it is associated with hostile, aggressive thinking, which may be a symptom of a mental health condition. "High-anger" drivers often experience more anger, anxiety, and impulsiveness than low-anger drivers. 

Road rage may be most apparent when drivers are behind the wheel, but research suggests that mental health concerns and high amounts of stress can contribute to these behaviors. Left unaddressed, a person's challenges "off the road" may lead to aggression, risky maneuvers, and other unsafe behaviors behind the wheel. 

Road rage vs. aggressive driving

Note: Any below information about laws is not legal advice and is meant solely for research purposes. 

While "road rage" and "aggressive driving" are sometimes used interchangeably, there are legal distinctions between the terms, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The NHTSA distinguishes road rage from aggressive driving with the following legal definitions: 

  • Aggressive driving: A traffic violation that occurs when an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses that endanger other people or property.

  • Road rage: A criminal offense often resulting from aggressive driving that escalates into an assault with a vehicle or other dangerous weapon. 

Aggressive driving and road rage are often unsafe, independent of their legal consequences. In high-pressure driving situations, it can be normal to feel upset or overwhelmed as a driver or passenger. However, if these feelings are impacting public safety or reaching the point of rage, it may be beneficial to take a step back and receive support in becoming a safe, considerate driver.


How to manage and prevent road rage

If you experience road rage, there are a few ways to manage and prevent your anger on the road, including the following. 

Try to identify a cause

While driving, it might feel like your rage occurs for no reason. One minute, you may be driving peacefully, and when someone cuts you off in traffic, you might suddenly feel unexpected fury. Anger is often a rapidly occurring emotion, and reflecting on your day and the events leading up to it may help you understand its cause. 

It could be possible that other events are amplifying your anger or temper. You may be commuting after an intense day at work, experiencing family dysfunction, living with mental health challenges, or experiencing chronic stress. 

While you might not be able to change some systemic life circumstances, you may consider how they influence your driving behavior. If you can make a connection between stressful events and rage incidents you can develop a plan to slow down, reflect, and calm your mind before driving. 

Give yourself time before and during the commute

One way to reduce road rage is by adhering to the speed limit and slowing down before driving. If you're feeling rushed, you might want to speed up and could feel frustrated with being late or approaching slower drivers. To prevent this, try to plan for long trips, travel during rush hour, or other commutes that often make you feel overwhelmed.  

You could also try to schedule a stop at your favorite convenience store or give yourself five minutes in the car before driving to gather your emotions. Whatever strategy you use, try to allow time to be your friend and use it as a tool to keep road rage at bay.

Establish a driving routine

For many people, driving can be stressful. Factors like a past car accident, a daily commute through a busy area, or a dislike of driving can lead to anger. In the face of any stressful situation, calming rituals might be beneficial. Your personalized driving routine could include a soothing playlist, guided meditation, or air freshener that helps you feel alert and calm while driving. 

Regardless of what your system looks like, try to be predictable with your routine and driving behaviors. As part of your standard routine, check your blind spots, use your signals, and strive to be a consistent and thoughtful driver. 

Try not to use your horn

If you have a history of aggressive driving, you may use your car's horn often during a driving trip. However, road safety organizations like AAA state that the horn is meant primarily as a safety device to use in case of emergency. 

Your horn is a fundamental pillar of safe, defensive driving. When appropriately used, horns can alert another driver that they might hit your car, warn a pedestrian in danger, or alert another car of a traffic signal. If you're regularly honking to express anger or frustration, consider reminding yourself not to press the horn by adding a sticker or another visual cue to prompt you to think twice.  

Try a support group 

Learning how to manage road rage may take time, reflection, or a break from driving. If you're feeling alone in this process, you might be able to connect with others struggling with anger to help you return to the road safely.

An anger management class or support group can be beneficial for some people. These communities may help you reflect on your driving behaviors and connect to others with similar challenges. You could also find a general anger management group or community focusing specifically on road rage and aggressive or angry driving.

Address anger or overwhelm while driving with a professional

Talk to a professional 

If you find that road rage negatively impacts your life or puts others in danger, you might benefit from reaching out to a professional. While some people prefer traditional, in-person therapy, online therapy may help you avoid driving to and from appointments, which could cause more stress. 

Digital platforms like BetterHelp can connect individuals to licensed therapists within 48 hours. With these platforms, you can choose between phone, video, or chat sessions and meet from any location with an internet connection. If you often feel calmer at home, talking to someone online can allow you to address road rage before you drive.  

In addition, current studies suggest that online therapy can be as effective as face-to-face options for various mental health concerns. One 2022 study of post-9/11 US veterans found that an online cognitive-behavioral group workshop was as effective as in-person mental health treatments. The online group felt more manageable and convenient for most participants, and the program effectively addressed various challenges, including anger, PTSD, mood changes, and difficulties with daily responsibilities.   


Road rage can be challenging, and it may be a serious threat to safe driving. Everyone plays a role in keeping the roads safe and stable, and it can start by recognizing your own driving behaviors and tendencies.

If you struggle with aggressive driving or road rage, consider checking in with your emotions or consulting a therapist for professional support. With guidance, you may gain the tools, strategies, and self-awareness to plan your next trip or keep calm on your daily commute.

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