Road Rage

Road Rage: When Stress Hits the Highway
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Or is there a certain type of person who is more prone to go ballistic on the beltway? Psychiatrists have an actual name for the kind of seething rage that goes beyond the speeding, tailgating, honking, or passing on the right that many aggressive drivers regularly do when they drive. People who experience road rage so violent that it leads to an assault against another driver, passenger, or car may be suffering from "intermittent explosive disorder" IED , according to a report in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

This disorder could affect up to 7 percent of the population, or about 16 million Americans over their lifetimes, according to the authors. That's not great news for those of us on the road.

Road Rage: How To Deal With It

Although no agency keeps official statistics on road rage events across the country, reports of so-called "aggressive driving" incidents have increased by about 30 percent since , according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The "reasons" given for violent disputes that ended in injury or death include:. The majority of aggressive drivers, according to the AAA foundation report, are relatively young, poorly educated men between 16 and 26 who have a history of crime or violence and who also have problems with drugs or alcohol.

Many cases of road rage occur when these perpetrators are going through some kind of emotional crisis, such as losing a job or girlfriend, going through a divorce, or suffering from an injury or illness, according to the AAA foundation.

How Road Rage Works

Certainly, there are cases of mild-mannered people who fly off the handle on the highway after a particularly bad day at the office, however. Remember Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down? Hundreds of motorists who have abruptly snapped and attacked other drivers, in fact, are successful men and women with no prior history of crime, violence, or alcohol or drug abuse. They come from all classes, races, religions, and ages, and some are women and older men.


Oscar winner Jack Nicholson, for example, was 57 when he jumped out of his car at a red light in a Los Angeles suburb and used his 3-iron golf club to bash in the windshield of a Mercedes that he said had cut him off. Still, although anyone can become an aggressive driver, some character traits appear to make a person more prone to road rage.

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According to the Archives of General Psychiatry report, people with intermittent explosive disorder have poor impulse control, explode in anger far out of proportion to the stress they're experiencing, and usually suffer from mood, anxiety, or substance abuse problems as well. The disorder doesn't stem from another psychiatric illness or the physiological effect of a drug or medical condition, such as head trauma.

Significantly, most people with IED have been treated for emotional or substance problems at some point, but only John Casada, a psychiatrist in Abilene, Texas, who specializes in treating patients with anger issues, says that people with the classic "Type A" or competitive personality are more likely to rage.

Preventing Road Rage

Unlike normal drivers, who get stressed in traffic but don't flip out, road ragers tend to take another driver's poor road manners or bad driving maneuvers as a personal slight. Another key to the mentality of road ragers and aggressive drivers may be their desire to punish the other driver or to "teach them a lesson.

This dynamic, experts say, has a tendency to make drivers feel that it's their responsibility to make sure that the mistakes of others drivers don't cause accidents. While calmer drivers might let another motorist's stupid maneuver roll off their backs with an "At least no one got hurt" type of attitude, ragers tend to work themselves up about how dangerous the driver is and how they must be corrected.

Are you the type that hits your brakes suddenly to "teach a lesson" to a tailgater? Do you leave yourself 30 minutes to make a minute drive and then become enraged when the cars before you are going too slow? Have you ever blocked a car that was trying to pass you just because you didn't think it should go so fast or get to pass you? Do you curse at other drivers? Do you compete with other drivers in a traffic jam or in toll booth lines?

Road Rage: When Stress Hits the Highway

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could stand to calm your inner provocateur, at least on the road. Sitting in traffic all boxed up your car, running late and feeling powerless to improve your situation, is a perfect recipe for stress. Add to the mix some guy weaving in out of lanes trying to push his way in front of you and everyone else who wants to get home too, and your road rage tiger just might rear up. Unfortunately, this scenario is common during the rush hours of most major cities in the United States at least five days a week.

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As our society spends more time commuting amid more and more traffic, it's no surprise that rates of aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise as well, Casada says. Certainly, the longer you sit in traffic, the more likely you are to rage, he says. Even if you never actually rage, you might notice the physiological effects of driving stress, such as increased heart rate, headache, muscle tension, and upset stomach.

Stress prepares your body for danger and flight, but when you're stuck in a traffic jam with nowhere to run, Casada says, those physiological effects end up doing your body harm instead of good. Even if you're not likely to engage in road rage, the following tips can make driving less stressful for you:. And finally, experts at the Harvard School of Public Health have one more piece of advice: Don't carry a gun in your car. If you find yourself getting angry and upset on the road, try to notice if you're engaging in any of the following aggressive driving behaviors: Not using turn signals.

Mentally or verbally cursing other drivers. How Road Rage Starts Often, those that we're closest to upset us the most. Some situations that can potentially result in road rage include: Getting fired or into an argument at work. Arguing with your significant other. Rushing because you're running late to an appointment.

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Retrieved August 28, Arguing with your significant other. As our society spends more time commuting amid more and more traffic, it's no surprise that rates of aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise as well, Casada says. Make sure our Newsletter makes it to your inbox by adding email dmv. Finally, relax your grip on the steering wheel. Section 4 also prohibits threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to cause a victim to believe that violence will be used against himself or another. Survey finds association between presence of gun in vehicle and aggressive driver behavior.

Scolding your kids in the car. Who Gets Road Rage It seems like everyone is susceptible to road rage, but studies have shown that younger male drivers and people with certain psychological disorders are most prone to engage in aggressive driving and road rage. Preventative measures you can take include: Putting on soothing music that you like.

Get into the mentality that you are sharing the road, and nobody's perfect! Keep a good amount of space between yourself and other drivers. Refrain from making prolonged eye contact or obscene gestures at other drivers. Diffusing Road Rage If you've upset another driver, it's important to defuse the situation as soon as possible. You can do so by: Waving to the other driver.

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Mouthing that you're sorry. Allowing plenty of room for them to pass you. Before taking matters into your own hands, you should: Pull over to a safe location, out of the way of traffic. Take deep breaths—maybe even count backwards. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. November Learn how and when to remove this template message. This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards.

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What Is Road Rage?

Please help improve this article if you can. January Learn how and when to remove this template message. The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. You may improve this article , discuss the issue on the talk page , or create a new article , as appropriate. August Learn how and when to remove this template message. Retrieved August 19, Retrieved 2 August Retrieved August 28, Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

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