According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration the difference between aggressive driving and road rage is this:
“Aggressive driving is when an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses that endangers other persons or property.” It includes speeding, lane blocking, tailgating, frequent and sudden lane changes, honking at other cars in a non- emergency, and failing to yield the right of way. These are ticketable offenses and according to a study conducted by the National Safety Council, aggressive driving is a factor in 50% of all crashes.
Road rage, on the other hand, is a criminal offense. You can go to jail for it. It is when a person commits an act of violence against another road user. This includes using your car as a weapon, dueling another vehicle in a reckless chase, retaliating against a driver that cut you off by nudging their bumper or getting out of your vehicle and brandishing a weapon with the intent to injure the other driver. Rarely is road rage triggered by a single incident. Rather, it is usually the “last straw” in a long series of stressors, such as financial problems, a recent argument with your spouse or even work-related issues. A stressed person may begin driving aggressively but escalate to road rage when triggered by the actions of another driver.
To help prevent these unsafe driving behaviors, start by preparing better for your trips. Get plenty of rest and eat before you leave. Also, go to the bathroom ahead of time and plan for bad weather and traffic congestion. Leave yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going. If stress is building while you drive, find a safe place to pull over and refocus. Relaxing music and taking deep breaths may calm you. Likewise, if you are the target of another driver with road rage, avoid eye contact and retaliating with obscene gestures. Let them pass and be done with them or call the police if the threat persists.