The freedom of the open road can be exhilarating. Unlike other forms of transportation, driving offers the opportunity to be completely independent of other travelers. With no need to go through security, check bags or wait around for delays, it’s not surprising that so many people choose a good old-fashioned road trip over plane or train tickets. This degree of independence also helps make driving the most common form of transportation in our daily routines, too. Whether you’re traveling to the office or to a vacation destination, driving is often equated with freedom.

Unfortunately, though, other drivers can crush this sense of liberty with the mere honk of a horn. Too often, a driver’s mood is soured by the choices of other motorists. While we might have the freedom to come and go whenever and wherever we’d like, we have to share the road with other drivers. Inevitably, this leads to frustration. When that frustration turns to road rage, serious car accidents and injuries can occur.

If you’re eager to stay safe on your next drive, try these tips to avoid aggressive driving situations:

Take Your Time

When a driver is in a rush, every stoplight, crosswalk, and vehicle on the road can seem like a roadblock. Whether you’re late for an appointment, eager to get home after a long day, or are simply frustrated by the amount of traffic in the area, rushing through your drive is never a good idea. Not only does this sense of urgency exacerbate every small setback, but it leads to unsafe and aggressive driving habits.

The next time you’ve got someplace important to be, give yourself plenty of time to arrive. Spend a moment plotting your route and take a look at how long the trip is estimated to take. Add a few minutes onto that figure to give yourself some margin for error. Even if you get caught in a traffic jam, you’ll make safer driving choices knowing you’ve got time on your side.

Stay Alert

A lot of aggressive driving is reactionary. You’re heading down the highway, singing along to the radio when someone cuts you off. Your first instinct might be to get angry and to retaliate in some form. In reality, your own daydreaming might have distracted you from the fact that the other driver is experiencing car trouble. Perhaps you inadvertently cut them off first. Or maybe you’re caught in the midst of a larger, troublesome traffic pattern. Without paying enough attention to the road, it’s easy to lose the context of what is happening.

It’s always important to stay focused and awake behind the wheel, but this is especially true for those hoping to avoid aggressive driving. By prioritizing the task at hand, you’ll be better equipped to handle potential setbacks. Fail to pay attention and you could find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Ignore Aggressive Drivers

Perhaps the driver who cut you off in the last example was simply being rude. It happens. For whatever reason, some motorists feel the need to take their frustrations out on other drivers. While it can be infuriating to be on the receiving end of such behaviors, retaliation is never a good idea. Exercise patience when dealing with a reckless driver.

Even more than being patient, though, it’s best to ignore the aggressive behaviors of other drivers altogether. Doing so can make you feel powerless, but it is truly the best way to avoid confrontation on the road. While you might be tempted to cut off a driver who cut you off or box in a motorist trying to pass you, the safest option is just to let them move forward. The more you allow aggressive drivers to get under your skin, the greater the risk of a car or motorcycle accident happening.

One tip to ensure safety after an encounter with an aggressive driver? Avoid eye contact. By acknowledging their presence, you engage with them. This could provoke them to continue their aggressive behaviors. A wave or a friendly gesture can defuse a situation, but make eye contact and you could fuel their road rage.

Drive Courteously

Of course, for every victim of road rage, there is someone perpetuating the behavior. Aggressive drivers often emerge out of nowhere, interrupting an otherwise pleasant drive. We’re all guilty of driving impolitely at one time or another. Doing so habitually, though, can mean serious problems.

Do your best to be part of the solution. If you’re driving more slowly than the flow of traffic, move to the right lane when possible. Prevent aggressive drivers from targeting you by adjusting your speed and distance from potentially hazardous situations. By driving as safely as possible, you prevent the situation from escalating.

By giving the open road and other motorists your respect, you significantly reduce the odds of being involved in an aggressive driving incident. Even if road rage is not something you struggle with, practicing these four tips regularly can help you avoid run-ins with angry drivers. By working together, we create a more peaceful driving culture.