Road Rage

Road rage is the term used to describe extreme anger and in some cases violence that arises when driving as a result of another’s perceived dangerous or erratic road use. As the roads get busier and we rush from A to B, minor mistakes by other drivers cause great frustration and annoyance. This leads to abuse, obscene gestures, tailgating and occasionally physical violence.
Though most drivers experience anger at some point, habitual road ragers spend their journeys shouting at and harassing anyone who they feel is a bad driver. They fail to realise that this makes them unsafe themselves as their mind is blanked by anger. Moreover, in some cases extreme aggression can cause the road rager to chase the person who they feel was at fault, putting both themselves and other road users in danger.
While fatal cases of physically violent road rage are rare, aggression on the road is on the increase. It is important to learn ways to overcome road rage, whether you are a road rager yourself or if you have been a victim of it.

Why Does Road Rage Occur?
It is true that people who behave selfishly, arrogantly, aggressively, or impatiently in their everyday lives usually drive in a manner that reflects these traits. There are also the kind of people however who descend into anger only when behind the wheel of their car.

Why does this happen?
Human beings are often territorial, and as such we often respond defensively to what we perceive to be an invasion of our road space. The car provides a protective barrier around us; making us feel brave enough to shout obscenities and generally show our anger at another driver, though we would not dream of it were we both pedestrians on a pavement.
Modern society pressures us into getting everywhere fast, and woe betide anyone who stands in our way. Our territorial behaviour and defensiveness coupled with a sense that it is other drivers and never us at fault leads to a very stressful and angry journey. Our inability to cope with emotions on the road can be worsened if we are equally incapable at coping with other stresses of the day, e.g. an argument at home, a bad day at work or even just hot weather conditions.

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Common specific behaviours by other car drivers that can trigger road rage are:

  • Failure to Signal
  • Tailgating
  • Hogging Lanes on the Motorway
  • Cutting in Traffic Queues
  • Prevent Other Cars Entering the Flow of Traffic
  • Using a Mobile Phone or any Other Distraction
  • Stealing a Parking Space
  • Cutting Across the Motorway to get to an Exit
  • Ignoring Signs or Road Markings
  • Being Overtaken by a Speeding Car in an Urban Area, who Proceeds to Drive Slowly on a National Speed Limit Road
  • Learner Drivers Going Very Slow or Stalling
  • Misusing Horn or Headlights
  • Swearing and Abuse either Verbally or Gesticulatory
  • Any Sudden Action that Forces you Brake or Swerve Rapidly

Who is Likely to Feel Road Rage?
As mentioned above, persons who are aggressive, egocentric, and impatient in their daily behaviour are likely to act the same when behind the wheel of a car. Yet it is also the case that many road ragers act completely out of character to their normal selves.
The anger that befalls one with road rage is often described as a red mist that makes them oblivious to little else but getting even with the driver that caused it. This angry blindness makes them themselves a bad driver as they cannot concentrate properly, and like an angry child they are unable to rationalise the situation.
Belligerent driving that is usually seen in young men is on the increase in women as the little road space we have becomes increasingly competitive.
New drivers under 21 years old possess motoring offences three times the national average. Technically, their driving displays fewer errors then drivers aged between 20-45, but the mistakes made are more serious and indicate a general lack of anticipation and control over the car.

Ways to Cope with Road Rage
Whether you experience road rage as the aggressor or the victim, here are some pieces of advice for calmer, safer driving.
Before you get angry at someone else’s bad driving, stop and think. It could be a genuine mistake, just like you will have made at certain points in your driving life. We are only human and errors will occur. Just stay calm and think rationally. It is not your job to teach other drivers a lesson.

Admit when you are wrong. If you know you have made a mistake, raise your hand in acknowledgement to avoid incurring the wrath of road ragers. Be respectful when you drive, and treat other drivers as you would like them to treat you.

Always signal when you are changing lanes to avoid confusion and anger.

When faced with a road rage situation, do not drive dangerously to elude the rager. It will make a bad situation worse. Just stay calm, stick to the speed limit and follow the usual driving precautions. Avoid eye contact and drive to the nearest police station. Do not drive home if they are following you.

If someone tries to open your car door, beep your horn to attract attention. Keep your doors locked when driving through busy areas in slow-moving traffic.

Never carry any type of weapon. Research has indicated that the mere presence of a weapon makes those involved in an angry encounter more aggressive. Do you really want to hurt someone, or have them use it against you?

Don’t let your anger get the better of you. Confronting someone about their erratic driving will achieve nothing except further trouble. If you find it difficult to let go of your aggression, consider an anger management course. It will ultimately make you a safer driver and make driving a more pleasant experience.

To prevent the build up of stress which can lead to road rage outbursts, always allow ample time for your journey. Plan your route so that you don’t get lost and stressed, and listen out for traffic reports of queues that may antagonise your impatience.

Spot the signs of tiredness, stress, and rising anger before it takes over. If you are getting tired, take a break. Do the same if you are getting stressed or angry. If you are stuck in a queue, put on some of your favourite, calming music.

Don’t take it personally. If you have experienced road rage, remember that the rager is a complete stranger who you will probably never see again (unless it ends up in court). They don’t know you and the attack isn’t aimed at you personally, it is a reflection of their inability to cope with the situation and their own emotions.