Whether we’d like to admit it or not, there certainly are times when we experience road rage while driving. It may come as a surprise to many that even the most reserved people still experience road rage at some point or another. With that said, every driver should understand the symptoms of road rage and how to overcome it.
What Is Road Rage?
Road rage is defined as an aggressive or violent behavior, that stems from a driver’s uncontrolled attitude towards the actions of another motorist. Road rage escalates from aggressive driving, which is essentially a series of illegal driving actions resulting from angry or stressed emotions during the operation of a vehicle.
Aggressive driving is the following:
- Verbally or mentally cursing (swearing) at other drivers
- Intentionally cutting other drivers off
- Braking quickly in front of another driver (brake checking)
- Intentionally failing to use a turn signal
- Excessive honking
- Flashing your headlights
If you find that you engage in any of these mentioned activities, you are more prone to experiencing road rage while driving. Whether in a car or in a motorcycle, road rage puts everyone on the road in danger.
The Psychology Behind Road Rage
The majority of people who have operated a motor vehicle have witnessed road rage. Whether they’ve experienced it first hand, seen it on television shows or played video games where road rage was key to its plot such as Grand Theft Auto 5 or the Simpsons Road Rage.
Everyone is susceptible to the psychology behind the aggressive driving mindset. Dr. Leon James, professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii, believes there is a predisposition to road rage that cultivates from as early as childhood.
“Drivers grow up being socialized into a highway of hostility rather than mutual support and peace; The back seat of the car is what I call road rage nursery. From childhood in the car and from watching television, we are prepared for competitive hard-nosed driving. The culture of road rage has deep roots. We inherit aggressive and dangerous driving patterns as children, watching our parents and other adults behind the wheel, and by watching and absorbing bad driving behaviors depicted in movies and television commercials.”
This aggressive driving has proven to reveal itself in all 50 states, but majority of the States do not have specific laws that target drivers with road rage. The U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website explains why aggressive driving is a traffic offense, and why it classifies road rage is a criminal offense!
The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as occurring when an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses that endangers other persons or property. Road rage is an assault with a motor vehicle by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway. Any unexpected situation on the road could spike aggression and rage. There are ways to avoid road irritation turn to full blown road rage.
The Dangers of Road Rage
Road rage is not a rare occurrence by other means, but when taken too far, life threatening issues arise to the driver, passenger(s) or the surrounding drivers on the road.
In 2017 there was a widespread report of an 18 year old killed in road rage, which occurred to Pennsylvania local Bianca Roberson, a recent high school graduate. The incident occurred while on a typical drive home from a shopping trip when a dangerous game of “cat and mouse”, a game in which one-person chases after the other just like a cat and mouse in real life, ensued between Roberson and 28-year-old David Andrew Desper while both attempting to merge onto route 100. This resulted a road rage shooting as Desper drew a gun and proceeded to shoot Roberson in the side of the head killing her upon contact.
This is the reality of the world we live in, where a simple drive home from shopping could become a dangerous life or death event. This is why it is important to practice defensive driving when on the road, to mitigate issues such as this from every becoming a perceivable outcome. There should never be a point in time where it is necessary to compete with someone else for dominion on the road. Allowing those driving aggressively to pass by you without competition, as it can only lead to trouble.
What Is the Best Way to Prevent Road Rage?
When it comes to preventing road rage it may be easy for some, but a lot harder for others. Depending on the demeanor of the person driving the vehicle someone cutting you off could vary between a few swear words being thrown to closely tailgating at an alarming distance. If you find yourself in need of ways to distract yourself from getting angry while on the road you could try any one of these common distractions:
If someone is tailgating close behind you simply moving over to the next lane will allow them to pass you up
After driving on the road for a while you will be able to assess what type of drivers are on the road at what times. Avoiding heavy traffic times could result in less chances for incidents to occur.
Listen to Music You Enjoy!
Turning up the music and singing along to it is one of the best ways to relieve your anger on the road. It’s just you in your car so if you want to scream and let it out might as well do it to your favorite songs!
Consider the fault is on your end and adjust your driving
It happens all the time! Sometimes you make a mistake on the road that seems extremely minuscule to you but could cause a rush of anger in the person driving next to you. Consider if you’re driving in the lines or too close behind the driver in front of you and adjust your driving accordingly.
For more tips on how to prevent road rage on the road check out our article “How to Deal with Road Rage”.