Road rage is no laughing matter. Up to 56 percent of fatal crashes involve aggressive driving, according to the American Automobile Association.
Given the nation's crowded streets and highways, it's hard not to experience occasional flashes of anger while behind the wheel. But it takes two to tango, and some motorist escalate confrontations that otherwise might quickly have fizzled.
Here, from the AAA, are nine mistakes motorists make that fuel others' road rage.
DON'T: Drive Slowly in the Left Lane
Hey, you're going the speed limit - why should you move out of the left lane and let someone pass? In some states, the law requires motorists to stay right - and to use the left lane only for passing. But no matter what the law says, moving to the right is the right thing to do.
DON'T: Talk Things Over
In relationships, having a heart-to-heart conversation can make things better. But pulling to the side of the road to settle things "man to man" is a very bad idea. Don't do it.
DON'T: Cut People Off
Why give other motorists a wide berth when you could speed your trip by cutting them off? Because it might save your life. If you inadvertently cut someone off, use a hand gesture to apologize. Just make sure to use the right hand gesture. Extending your middle finger is always the wrong thing to do. What if someone else cuts you off? Slow down to give them room to merge into your lane.
DON'T: Go It Alone
The police have better things to do than to keep angry motorists in line. But if another motorist seems to be following you in an attempt to settle the score, it's time to seek help.
If a cell phone is handy, call the police (safe to have a passenger place the call, if you've got company in the car). Otherwise, drive someplace where there are plenty of people around - a police station, shopping center, convenience store, or even a hospital.
Whatever you do, don't drive home if you're being followed.
DON'T: Honk Your Horn
Honking is a good way to alert other motorists in a dangerous situation. But honking simply to register your anger can make the other driver just as angry and escalate the situation. Don't do it.
DON'T: Think Like a Competitor
Some motorists treat driving like some sort of contest. Big mistake. It can rev up your competitive juices, making you feel as if you have to dominate other drivers to get your way on the road.
Better to adopt a live-and-let-live attitude behind the wheel. Listen to soothing music or a book on tape. Most important is to set aside plenty of time to make your trip - so you won't feel rushed.
DON'T: Show Your Frustration
Other motorists need to be taught when they've done something wrong, right? Maybe - but it's just too risky to try.
So no matter how irritated you become, avoid doing anything that might escalate the situation: no obscene gestures; no eye contact with the other motorist and no shaking your head. Always show courtesy - even if other motorists don't treat you courteously.
Tailgating is great fun outside the stadium, but it's a big no-no when you're behind the wheel. Drivers get angry when people follow too closely.
Always drive so that there's a two-second gap between your car and the one ahead of you in the lane. If you are being tailgated, signal and pull over so that the other driver can pass safely.
DON'T: Take Things Personally
What gives that other motorist the right to cut you off or treat you like he's in some sort of life-or-death situation? Actually, it's a good idea to consider the possibility that another driver might indeed be a volunteer fireman or a doctor rushing to the hospital.
Someone who jerks in front of you might not be a jerk at all - but might simply be someone who has a bee or a crying baby in the car. So don't take things personally.