I still don't know what I did, but I had a big SUV tailgate my car and flash his brights, then pull alongside and push into my lane. I was in the right lane and there was a concrete guardrail on my side. When we got to a red light, he got out and ran to my car and started cursing and banging on the window, telling me to get out of my car. I started filming him with my phone and he finally left, after shouting out a few more slurs about my ethnic heritage. Was there anything else I should have done? When I told this story at work, everybody had a similar story. I don't remember it ever being this bad before. – Simon, Toronto
Is road rage getting worse?
It's tough to say, but anecdotally, it seems that the incidents of angry aggression are piling up as our roads get more congested.
"Cops don't track it," said Steve Albrecht, who writes about violence for Psychology Today. "It's part of overly aggressive driving, but in studies, people admit to it and it seems to be part of the human condition."
So what should you do when targeted by an aggressive driver?
Experts say: Keep your cool, try to get out of the way and report the incident to police as soon as it is safe.
"If you find yourself in that situation, call 911 – if your vehicle is blocked, stay in the vehicle and lock your doors," said superintendent Alison Jevons, director of operations and support with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) highway safety division. "Some of these incidents really escalate to an unbelievable level."
In March, an Edmonton woman had her arms broken by a crowbar in a road-rage attack. She had honked at a car stopped on the road and it followed her until she stopped and got out of her car.
"We say it's best to not engage when you get two people at the side of the road because things can escalate," Jevons said. "If you feel somebody is following you, don't drive home, drive to a police station or to a busy public place."
Should you call the police while you're driving?
"There is no exemption under the legislation in Ontario for drivers to use a cell phone in emergent circumstances," Jevons said. "I would never want to recommend that someone does that, as it could have unintended consequences – the best advice is to call 911 as soon as is safe. The severity of the situation will dictate how urgently the call should be made."
There's no specific charge for road rage, but the OPP does track Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) violations when officers think they're related to aggressive driving, including speeding and unsafe lane changes, Jevons said.
From 2015 to 2016, those incidents went up 70 per cent – from 118 to 200 per cent.
But road-rage incidents can escalate beyond the HTA and into the Criminal Code, Jevons said.
"Banging on a car could be criminal mischief," Jevons said. "There could be charges of assault, threatening [or] dangerous driving."
A 2016 report on road rage in the United States by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that two out of three drivers said aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago.
In a 2016 Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) poll, nearly nine out of 10 drivers say aggressive driving is a threat to their personal safety.
"I get a lot of interest from Canadian media. I think that's because your culture tends to be more supportive and nicer than ours," Albrecht said. "In the States, it's getting way worse – as the population grows, there's not enough space."
When you're in your car, you feel anonymous, Abrecht said.
Combine that with anger and a sense of territoriality – the other driver has infringed on your turf – and it's a recipe for road rage.
"At the time, they're not thinking that the cops will get your licence plate number from the people you threaten or that cell phones will capture what's going on and your face will get plastered all over social media," Albrecht said. "Anger is a natural human condition, but you have to consider the consequences. I tell parents that if your kids see you cursing at another driver or cutting someone off, they may think that's an acceptable reaction."
If another driver becomes aggressive, don't retaliate and risk getting into a crash, Albrecht said.
"Don't get into situations where you're using passive-aggressive behaviours – just do your thing, listen to the radio and just focus on your driving," Albrecht said. "Get ahead of them if you can. I think you have to be careful not to let them get behind you and follow you for miles and miles."
The best defence, according to the CAA?
"Be extra Canadian. If another driver is aggressive towards you, don't take it personally," Kristine D'Arbelles, CAA spokewoman, said in an e-mail. "Be polite, even if the other driver is not. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move out of the way."