Road Rage

IsisIn these stressful times that we are living in, and the current pace of life, we find many drivers with eyes locked hard on to their phones and their feet stomped heavy on their gas pedals. These days, it is hard not to feel like the drivers to your left and right have become more territorial, more aggressive, and just plain meaner when they get behind the wheel.
Is the problem known as “road rage” a larger symptom of a general anger problem.

The following are common sign of road rage:

  • Generally aggressive driving, including sudden acceleration, braking, and tailgating.
  • Cutting others off in a lane, or deliberately preventing someone from merging.
  • Chasing other motorists.
  • Flashing lights and/or sounding the horn excessively.
  • Yelling or exhibiting disruptive behaviour at roadside establishments.
  • Driving at high speeds in the median of a highway to terrify drivers in both lanes.
  • Rude gestures (such as ‘the finger’).
  • Shouting verbal abuses or threats.
  • Intentionally causing a collision between vehicles.
  • Hitting other vehicles.
  • Assaulting other motorists, their passengers, cyclists or pedestrians.
  • Exiting the car to attempt to start confrontations, including striking other vehicles with an object.
  • Threatening to use or using a firearm or other deadly weapon.
  • Throwing projectiles from a moving vehicle with the intent of damaging other vehicles.
  • People speeding past.
  • Changing lanes with no signal.
  • Weaving dangerously across three and four lanes.
  • Passing too closely on either side of your car.
  • Speeding up to block you out.
  • Racing other drivers (i.e., two maniacs who think car-handling skills are better than they actually are).
  • Roaring up behind as if they might intentionally rear-end you.
  • Horn honking.
  • Flashing high beams at your mirror when you are in “their” fast lane.

What used to be a largely male problem has crossed gender lines.
Women may not get into roadside fistfights or point guns at each other like men, but they can drive just as aggressively, rudely, and even dangerously.
For many men, aggression is supposed to be overt; for women it is more covert. But put them both behind the wheel, late for something, angry about something else, and in no mood for courtesy, and their behaviours will compare.

What factors cause a usually mild-mannered person to see red?
Some people who are ordinarily even-tempered admit that they have an easy tendency to lose control of their emotions when they get behind the wheel. Their fuses get lit when they put their keys into the ignition.
For some road ragers, it is a need for control, to counter other drivers who they feel violate their proxemic space, or their need for possession of their lane or their part of the road.
For others, it is unchecked anger and aggression.
It is hormone-based, primitive, small-brain thinking, bringing a lack of emotional intelligence or the need to dominate someone else and their unsharable space.
Add in unchecked egos, the need for superiority, narcissistic pride, and male genital one-upmanship: my vehicle is bigger than yours.
Psychologists define certain behaviours as problematic when they have consequences. Road rage, and especially those acts which lead to confrontations, can have significant consequences,

  • Including getting cited by the police.
  • Getting arrested for reckless driving (three or more moving violations in a row).
  • Having your licence suspended or revoked.
  • Losing or tripling your auto insurance policy.
  • Damaging your car or the other driver’s car.
  • Injuring or killing someone in the other car or someone in your car, including your spouse or children.
  • Road rage victims and perpetrators have been pepper sprayed, stabbed, beaten, run down, and shot by each other.

The minor consequences are that you continue to let one isolated event on the road ruin your whole day or get you a traffic ticket. In addition, do not discount the not-insignificant matter of embarrassing your family as you act like a spitting, cursing, raving lunatic. If you show that side to your kids too often, they could learn to see that behaviour as somehow “appropriate” when they get old enough to drive.

Solutions are easy to say and often hard to follow.
Some people do not have the will or resources to try to
control themselves, even under the threat of an injury, a crash, a citation, an arrest, or a lawsuit.

They suffer from the “It is the other driver’s fault” syndrome.

One simple answer road rage is to concentrate fully and intently on your own driving,
Make extra allowances for drivers around you and expect that their driving skills may leave a lot to be desired.

  • Perspective is an important part of road rage prevention too.
  • You are you.
  • The other driver is the other driver.
  • Only you can let someone ruin your day or worse, or push your hot buttons.
  • Focus on being “relentlessly positive” and realise you cannot control, coerce, or fix other people.
  • You can only manage you.
  • Practice kindness, starting with you first.

Road rage as a medical condition.
As early as 1997, therapists in the United States were working to certify road rage as a medical condition. It is not an official mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V).
However, according to an article published by the Associated Press in June 2006, the behaviours typically associated with road rage can be the result of intermittent explosive disorder.

Intermittent explosive disorder (IED) is a behavioural disorder characterised by extreme expressions of anger, often to the point of uncontrollable rage, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand. Impulsive aggression is unpremeditated, and is defined by a disproportionate reaction to any provocation, real or perceived.

© 2014 – 2015, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.