Most estimates today estimate that at least half of the drivers on the road today in North America will an issue with road rage, either being a victim of it or allowing themselves to loose control over their own emotions when they feel threatened on the road. It is like a battle zone out there: pedestrians, bicyclists, automobiles, trucks all sharing ever increasingly over-populated roadways.
How To Respond To Road Rage
Recent studies reveal that over 85% of angry drivers claim that they would not have chosen to escalate the situation of they would have gotten some sign of apology or contrition from the other motorist.
Although you clearly may have done nothing wrong, it is always best in any sort of potentially dangerous situation to overcome one's ego and be contrite, accommodating and apologetic when encountering others exhibiting violent behavior, and then getting away from the situation or area as quickly as possible.
Remember the single most important thing when it comes to self-protection: there is nothing to be gained from willfully engaging in a physical confrontation with an irrational and angry person, because in street confrontations, there are no "winners" and "losers".
The "winner" goes to jail or to a damaging civil suit, or both, and the "looser" to the trauma center or worse, the morgue. It is quite possible that the person who is angry at you is incapable of cabling down, which is all the more reason to get yourself out of harm's way ASAP.
Strategies To Defuse an Angry or Potentially Violent Motorist
Be kind - allow others to cut in front of you. This will encourage them to not regard you as an "obstacle". And think, if everyone did this, people who are prone to rage would have less to feel threatened about. (people with anger issues are typically predisposed to not dealing well with things that they feel are threats to them)
Apologize, even if you feel you are not at fault. Chances are, you are in the right, but for heavens sake avoid provoking someone who is already angry. Most times, a simple apology, or even going as far to show an "I'm sorry" sign can defuse an angry person immediately.
Don't take it personally if someone cuts you off and then shakes their fist at you. Avoid eye contact and potential escalation!
Follow the rules of the road as best as possible, be courteous, avoid cutting others off, keep up with the flow of traffic and anything else that can set people off.
Get their license plate and vehicle make, and then when you can, document the details of your encounter to the authorities immediately.
When an angry motorist continues to badger you or when you believe you are being followed, drive towards the nearest police station or a well-lit crowded place with lots of potential witnesses to get help.
Strategies to avoid becoming angry yourself at the carelessness of other motorists:
Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Quite often a trigger for rage is when one feels that others are responsible for making you late. As with anything else, plan for the unexpected and hope for the best.
Avoid anything that could raise levels of adrenaline. Lets face it, driving alone can spike anyone's adrenaline levels. So, listening to music which could put you on edge or drinking too much coffee can add to irritability, which of course can affect rational judgement.
Accept the fact that there is, unfortunately, no shortage of dangerous, irrational assholes out there, and they are unlikely to change though any of your efforts or actions. If the court system cannot change these people, it is unlikely getting into a verbal or physical confrontation will either. Sad, but true.
Practice deep breathing from your diaphragm. This is a very valuable technique for controlling one's emotions and anger.
Change you thinking: do not allow yourself to get sucked into the mindset that you have the right, or even have the ability to change others' behavior, judgement or thinking patterns. If there is some idiot in front of you that just about killed you when they cut you off - and then gave YOU the finger - the bad news is that they probably feel that it is "your fault" for being in "their world".
People like that can seldom be changed, and will definitely not change their attitude when someone gives them the finger or even physically attacks them. They just don't get it, and likely never will. Accepting this fact, while not approving of it, is the best that one can do.
Avoidance of potentially bad situations and people is the key to living safely.