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Road Rage Realities

Updated on November 22, 2012

Road rage is a relatively new term fairly well known to most of us. However, a consistent all encompassing definition of what it is has yet to be established. Basically, it’s known as a variety of aggressive behaviors by a driver ranging from yelling at another driver, to using a weapon, including the vehicle, to inflict damage to another driver or their vehicle. A number of psychological factors may also play a role as well. It’s estimated about one third of drivers have been guilty of it at one time or another.

Some research on the subject shows most offenders are young males on average about 33 years old and caused by a number of factors. Other studies indicate the behavior may extend through all age groups and genders, with the exception of seniors. Some of these behaviors are:

  • Displaced aggression
  • Alcohol and substance misuse
  • Borderline and antisocial personality disorders
  • Environmental factors such as heavy traffic and miles driven

Most incidents of road rage seem to amount to nothing more than shouting and gesturing, but according to Department of Transportation statistics, nearly 2,000 individuals suffer injuries or death from raging motorists annually.
The American Automobile Association lists four specific character traits of road rage:

Impatience: Drivers can perceive themselves to be behind schedule and the never ending number of stop signs can be a huge source of aggravation. Or the quest to find a good parking space can also spark an episode. There are also more vehicles on the road leading to more frustration and stress.

Revenge: The need to exact punishment for a perceived injustice, whether real or not.

Anger: Drivers get angry at other drivers, for driving too fast, too slow or cutting them off. Even passengers can set off an irritated navigator by being a “back seat driver.”

Competition: Drivers consider the road their own private speed way and entitled to dominate it.

Some researchers believe driving behavior can be learned from parents and other adults. TV shows and movies also glamorize dangerous, aggressive driving. However, it isn't always bad driving and aggressive behavior at fault. It can be simple pent up anger over a bad work day, depression from a stressed relationship or simply a misunderstanding between motorists. Most aggressive driving is confined to tailgating, obscene gestures, verbal abuse and other such behavior, but can result in injury or death.

An error in judgment may be interpreted as aggressive and cause tempers to flare. Situations such as this can easily escalate into more serious confrontations. The best way to avoid these situations is to ignore the offending party if possible. However, that may sometimes prove difficult. An example would be a reckless driver who passes a car, pulls out in front and slams on their brakes.

Road rage can be exhibited in various Ways. Speeding, aggressive acceleration, cutting others off, weaving in and out of traffic, blowing the horn, flashing headlights, making rude gestures, verbal abuse, striking another person or throwing objects are all common examples. Even usually well behaved drivers, pushed to a point, can become irritated and commit acts of aggression resulting in a lot of damage.

Some think road rage may be caused by a mental illness called intermittent explosive disorder, (IED) uncontrolled explosive outbursts of behaviors such as throwing objects, breaking things and causing physical harm to others. Although it’s not common there’s not enough data available yet to confirm a clear decision.

Following a few simple rules can prevent most incidents. Unfortunately, many drivers forget to apply them. Be courteous, always use turn signals, avoid tailgating, use high beams only when necessary, don’t exceed parking lot speed limits and don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


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    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Davesworld, the driver who kept flipping on his brights when you passed him may have been a over-the-road trucker who wasn't flicking the brights to irritate you, but to be courteous. It's a thing most truckers do automatically to say "Howdy" to the driver of a passing acknowledge your presence on that particular stretch of road. Meant to be friendly, NOT confrontational. The guy may not've even realized he was doing it.

      The daylight version on rural back roads when two vehicles are meeting is to raise the index finger from the steering wheel in passing. I once took a city friend on a cemetery run in the country. We met a farm pickup on a gravel road. He raised his index finger, I raised mine. My friend thought it odd that I'd acknowledge a complete stranger, but that's just what one does in those parts. 'When in Rome', etc.

      That same friend's 80-yr-old father, btw, is lucky to be alive after his car stalled recently in the exit lane of a busy parking lot in KS. Instead of sticking his arm out the window and waving the honking car behind him around, he jumped out, pounded on the driver side window and confronted the driver. "Grandpa" was just lucky the guy wasn't the aggressive type...or packing a weapon. Road rage is how "Grandpa" lets off steam instead of resolving a long-running dispute with a young relative.

      Since OK passed its weapons open carry law, you betcha I'm putting as much space as possible between me and other cars from now on. ;D

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      drbj, well I'll just have to run them over then. LOL

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Your few simple rules at the end, JY, would certainly help to alleviate road rage. Too bad that the folks who need them, probably won't read them!

    • joanwz profile image

      Joan Whetzel 5 years ago from Katy, Texas

      This is great information any time of year, but with so many people on the road for the holidays, it's a nice reminder to stay cool so everyone arrives safely and in a pleasant mood. Thanks for this reminde.

    • JY3502 profile image

      John Young 5 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I would've thought the guy was trying to annoy me, not trying to prove his brights weren't on.

    • Davesworld profile image

      Davesworld 5 years ago from Cottage Grove, MN 55016

      Had a conversation with a co-worker once that went something like this:

      He said: "I was driving on a two lane road at night [the actual road is irrelevant]. I passed the guy in front of me and he flicked his brights at me as if I had mine on behind him, which I didn't.

      "So I slowed down and let him pass me. Then I crawled up on his bumper and turned my bright lights on and stayed there a mile or so before I passed him so he would understand that I hadn't used my brights before. When I got around him, he flicked his brights at me.

      "So I slowed down again but he wouldn't pass me, so I pulled over onto the shoulder. When he went by I pulled up behind him, turned on the brights and stayed there for five miles before I passed again and the idiot flicked his brights at me again.

      "This time I just kept going because some people just never learn."

      Occasionally this man and I would leave work at the same time (we both drove the same route). When that happened I busied myself in the car for a bit to give him a good head start. I did not want him behind me.