We’ve all experienced frustration on the road — other drivers irritate us by cutting us off, failing to use a turn signal or merging inappropriately. And while we might get angry at the moment, most of us would not choose to escalate it into aggressive, dangerous road rage. However, when it does escalate, it can be life-threatening and traumatizing.
It’s important to always be aware on the road, but especially when it comes to road rage, it’s crucial to be both in check of yourself and your emotions while behind the wheel of a car.
What is road rage?
Road rage is best defined as “explosive anger caused by inconveniences and incidents that occur while driving. It is most often wielded in a retaliatory fashion — the raging driver believes that they have been wronged in some way, anger gets the better of them, and they take revenge on the perceived wrongdoer.”
It is more than one individual getting frustrated with another; it’s when the frustrated individual loses control and engages with the other driver in a threatening, dangerous way without consideration for the safety of themselves or anyone on the road. Examples of road rage include:
- Weaving through traffic
- Following the vehicle that triggered the frustration
- Intentionally ramming another vehicle
- Cutting off other vehicles or blocking lanes
- Slamming on the brakes in front of the offending vehicle
When these signs of road rage are seen, it is best to get out of the way of the aggressive driver, not make eye contact or engage with their behavior at all and contact authorities if necessary.
What causes road rage?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to road rage, both on the road and before driving even begins. The most common causes include:
- External stressors – Getting into the car with leftover anger from work or home situations can make drivers more prone to getting frustrated on the road and engaging in road rage
- Traffic – Bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road, especially unexpected, long-lasting traffic, can lead to increased aggravation and impatience, which may lead to aggressive actions
- Running late – Actions like tailgating or swerving can be a result of running late, but these actions not only put others on the road at risk, it may cause drivers to respond aggressively and potentially cause an accident
- Anonymity – Being inside a car can make you feel bold since you’re not face-to-face with the other nor likely to see them again; this lack of personal connection can influence drivers to make choices that put both at risk without thinking about the potential consequences.
Not only does road rage put the two drivers actively engaged at risk, but it also puts everyone on the road at risk. And it’s more common than you think for people to be injured on the road due to aggressive driving — speeding alone caused 11,258 deaths on the road in 2020.
How can I prevent road rage?
We can all play a role in minimizing rage and aggression on the road, whether we have found ourselves the victim of road rage, or felt inclined toward aggressive tendencies while driving.
Don’t drive already worked up
If you get in the car already fuming from a situation at work or an argument at home, you are more likely to get frustrated with inconveniences on the road and engage with angry drivers or behave aggressively yourself. Instead of jumping in your car to cool down, consider going for a walk or a run — exercise is more beneficial for mental health and may keep you safer than angrily getting behind the wheel.
Consider the other side
While some situations on the road are genuinely frustrating, try to consider the other side. Maybe they’re weaving through traffic to get to the hospital in an emergency; perhaps they’re driving slow because they’re lost or looking for an address; maybe they cut you off because they’re not from around here and don’t know the roads.
Instead of resulting in honking or gesturing, take a breath, give them space and politely drive around them when you can.
Give yourself time
Running late can cause even a safe driver to make potentially dangerous choices on the road and speed through traffic or roll through a stop sign. Leaving on time, or even with a few minutes to spare, can encourage safe driving, minimize the pressure to drive fast and keep you from overlooking the rules of the road in an effort to get where you’re going faster.
Tailgating, while it might feel like a good way to speed someone up or get them to move over faster, actually puts you at a greater risk of hitting them if they brake, and might cause them to retaliate if they become annoyed. Even if it’s frustrating, keep an appropriate distance between you and the driver in front of you, and pass them when you have the chance to safely do so.
Therapy can help with rage
Those who experience rage on the road might struggle with anger issues in other areas of their life as well. Meeting with a therapist and learning self-calming exercises through cognitive behavior therapy can help minimize rage in all areas of your life, increase self-awareness and promote a more peaceful state of mind.
To get in contact with a therapist today, consider The Light Program. Learn more by calling our office at 610-644-6464 or visiting our website.