Safety experts, out of well-intended concern for people's well-being, tend to frighten the public unnecessarily.

The newest scare, whose publicity is all out of proportion to its actual danger, is "road rage," angry, provocative, aggressive driving.The American Automobile Association has launched a well-publicized campaign to soothe the rage, but, like heavy-handed coverage of crime news, the publicity may make drivers feel more at risk than they are.

Just over 40,000 people die in traffic accidents each year. According to the AAA, 218 people died in road rage incidents from Jan. 1, 1990, to Aug. 30, 1996, an annual rate of 32 a year.

By comparison, that's about the same number who are killed skiing or sky-diving each year, and less than half the number of Americans - 85 - killed by lightning annually. The chances of getting killed in any kind of driving accident whatever are about one in 100 million miles traveled.

Be calm. Be alert. Drive safely. And don't worry.