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No one wants to encounter a driver with “road rage.” However, bicyclists are far more physically vulnerable than motorists. They can also become victims simply because a driver has a problem with sharing the road with cyclists.

Trying to have a discussion with the angry driver and de-escalate the situation rarely works. It can easily only make them angrier, according to one attorney who represents bicyclists. She says, “Most motorists raging at a cyclist don’t want to hear the rules and laws…. She adds, “With so many people packing weapons in their cars, I can’t ever recommend a cyclist try to engage with a motorist who has just demonstrated road-rage behavior.”

What to do when you encounter an angry driver

If engaging with an angry driver, even to try to calm them down, isn’t a safe strategy, what should you do? Here’s what experts recommend.

  • Get to a safe place. This could involve going on to a sidewalk or (safely) turning around and heading in the opposite direction. If necessary, go in to a building or other area where the driver can’t follow in their car, but where you’re not at risk of being isolated.
  • Look for witnesses. If others see what is happening, many angry drivers will be less inclined to act out. Witnesses can also help if you report the incident to law enforcement.
  • If a driver continues to threaten you, call 911 and leave the line open.
  • If there’s time, try to get descriptive information on the car, the driver and which way they’re headed.
  • If the driver gets out of their car and you’re forced to defend yourself, putting your bike between you and them can help.
  • Don’t do anything that could cause you to be considered the aggressor.

A good precaution even before you get on the road is to have at least one video camera on your bike or person. There are a number of bicycle light/camera combos you can purchase.

If you’re injured by an angry driver, whether you were on a bicycle, motorcycle or in a car, it’s crucial to report the incident to police if they weren’t called to the scene. Regardless of what criminal charges the driver faces, you may also be able to seek damages in civil court for medical costs and other expenses as well as damages for things like emotional trauma. An experienced attorney can help.