The sun is setting as you put your car in drive, pulling out into bumper to bumper traffic. As you sit with a pounding headache trying to decompress from just another day, praying there will be a break in traffic so you can get home. Juggling work, school, and family is hard, and just think, you get to do it all again tomorrow. The bottled up traffic is beginning to clear, if you could just pass the car in front of you, you’ll be home in no time. You turn your head and glance to the side before pulling out to pass the car in front. Looks like smooth sailing from this point, so you flip on your turn signal, merge into the other lane, and begin to accelerate. As you pass the other car, the other driver veers into your lane, smashing into your passenger door. As you look to your right you see the other driver screaming at you with a wild glare in his eyes; you put the pedal to the metal you take off, and he’s chasing you, welcome to road rage everyone.
Now the scenario above is a bit extreme, and chances are most of us will never experience this, but road range incidents have been on the rise for years. According to the American Automobile Association, they’ve been increasing by seven percent per year since 1990. “Yet this is only the small tip of a very large iceberg,” says David K. Willis, President of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “For every aggressive driving incident serious enough to result in a police report or newspaper article, there are hundreds or thousands more which never got reported to the authorities.” The study performed by AAA showed that most incidents were trivial disagreements by ordinary citizens that led to an act of road violence. “People have been shot because they drove too slowly or played the radio too loud,” Willis says. “But violent traffic disputes are rarely the result of a single incident. Rather, they seem to be the result of personal attitudes and the accumulation of stress in the motorist’s life.” Everybody has heard of road rage, but let me ask you a few questions, who are aggressive drivers, what causes aggressive driving, and finally, how do we protect ourselves from being a victim?
Raise your hand if you feel woman drivers have a higher road rage incident percentage than men. The answer to this question is, there is no set profile for road rage offenders. In the study performed by the AAA the majority of aggressive driver were male between the ages of 18 and 26; however there were also hundreds of cases by males between the ages of 26 and 75. 4% of all reported cases were by woman. According to Physiologist Steve Albrecht, “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.” Even though most incidents were committed by young, uneducated men with a criminal record, history of violent behavior, and or drug and alcohol abuse. There are also hundreds of other successful man and woman who also commit road rage. There is no one cause of road rage, but experts believe stress is a main trigger for everyday aggressive driving. “Human beings are territorial, and the car is an extension of this territory,” according to AAA, showing that violent traffic disputes include arguments over: parking spaces, cutting another motorist off, refusing to allow passing, minor traffic crashes, obscene gestures, loud music, overuse of the horn, slow driving, tailgating, failure to use a turn signal, all of which invade the aggressive drivers personal space.
However, extreme cases of road rage are usually classified by a disorder known as intermittent explosive disorder, which is characterized by recurrent episodes of angry and potentially violent outbursts. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, “People with this disorder overreact to situations with uncontrollable rage, feel a sense of relief during the angry outburst, and then feel remorseful about their actions.” This was shown in a case where a teenager murdered a passenger of another vehicle saying, “We was dissed.” We live in a society where not driving just isn’t an option, so how do we protect ourselves from being the next road rage statistic? Dr. Ricardo Martinez, Administrator of the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises drivers to, “Never underestimate the other driver’s capacity for mayhem. Be patient and keep your cool in traffic. The best way to avoid being the target of an aggressive driver is to practice basic traffic courtesy. There are a number of steps any driver can take to minimize their chance of an aggressive driving incident such as:
•Pay attention to the road ahead and be aware of the drivers around you. If you see an aggressive driver approaching in your rear view mirror, get out of his way. Move into another lane or give him plenty of space to get around you.
•Stay in the right hand lane unless you are passing another driver. Keep the left lane clear for passing traffic. If you are on a two-lane road and traffic is building up behind you, pull over and allow faster traffic to pass.
•Use turn signals and slow in time so other drivers will have time to react to your brake lights.
•Remember that you can’t take the right-of-way, you can only give it up to someone else. If someone else insists on taking the right-of-way, give it to them even if you legally have the right-of-way.
•Most importantly, be courteous to other drivers even if they aren’t courteous in return. It is important to never retaliate against other drivers as this has been known to cause traffic games in the past. According to AAA, “30% of all drivers have admitted to playing traffic games at one point of their life.” An example of this is when a driver slows down because he is being tailgated, only to have the tailgater pass the driver and slow down as “punishment.” The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urges all drivers that find themselves in a situation like this to, “Do whatever it takes to get out, including getting off the road if necessary.” Road rage is a growing problem in the world that is 100% avoidable. Approximately one-third of drivers in the US acknowledged that they have at one point or another, drove in an aggressive manner. There is no one type of individual responsible for road rage, and they can’t be spotted from a distance; so always remember drive with courtesy to others. Remember even the most peaceful people can become enraged drivers when they get behind the wheel. Finally, if you are ever tempted to participate in a driving game, ask yourself: “Is it worth being paralyzed or killed? Is it worth a going to prison?” In one impulsive action, you could ruin the rest of your life.
American Automobile Association. (n.d.). Aggressive Driving. Retrieved from Foundation For Traffic Safety: https://www.aaafoundation.org/aggressive-driving Britt, R. R. (2009, June 16). Road Rage: Why We Lose It. Retrieved from Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/3696-road-rage-lose.html Sansone, R. A. (2010,
July 7). Road Rage: Whats Driving It? Retrieved from Psychiatry MMC: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2922361/ The National Safety Commission Inc. (2009, May 6). How to Avoid Road Rage Incidents. Retrieved from The National Safety Commission: http://alerts.nationalsafetycommission.com/2009/05/how-to-avoid-road-rage-incidents.php
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