When Dr. Zalaquett asked if I was familiar with the term “road rage”, I thought he was referring to a rare phenomenon. However, as he began to quiz me about experiencing various driving scenarios, I soon realized that I was all too familiar with “road rage”. “You mean like the time that idiot cut me off in traffic; that made me so mad that I honked my horn and used a certain reflexive hand gesture?” “And then there was the time that…” He continued to wait patiently as my stories of traffic skirmishes unfolded. Like most people who experience first-hand the chaos of rushing around in traffic and dealing with aggressive drivers, a question like Dr. Zalaquett’s can trigger a pretty impassioned response.
or aggressive driving. When I think of aggressive driving, I
think of simple risk-taking, such as speeding, driving too slowly, tailgating,
weaving recklessly through traffic, ignoring stop signs and red lights,
and cutting off other drivers. However, these minor signs of aggression
can progress to great extremes. For instance, in Salt Lake City an unfriendly
gesture turned to violence when a honk from 41-year-old Larry Remm Jr.
caused 75-year-old J.C. King, who was blocking traffic, to follow Remm
until he pulled off of the road, throw his bottle of prescription medication
at him, and smash his knees with his ’92 Mercury.
Statistics show that 250,000 people have
died in traffic since 1990. It is believed that two-thirds of these deaths
are at least partially caused by aggressive driving, although only 218
were found to be a direct cause of angry drivers. According to the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 66 percent of all annual
traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving actions, such as passing
on the right, running red lights and tailgating.
Dr. John A. Larson, author of Steering Clear of Highway Madness, groups aggressive drivers into five categories: Speeders, passive aggressors, narcissists, vigilantes, and competitors. Several characteristics are related to the most typical aggressive driver: being under 35, single, no education and a mid-level income. Furthermore, although women are more likely to confess to angry driving, men are more likely to participate in true “road rage”, in which an angry driver intentionally harms another driver. Whether or not an aggressive driver takes physical action depends on the degree of anger he or she feels. “If someone pulls out in front of you or cuts you off, you may be justified at four or five on a scale of 10…if you’re up to seven to 10, though, that’s an exaggerated response,” says Larson.
Redford Williams, M.D., at Duke University, points to a hostile personality type as an indicator of someone who is more likely to get angry quicker. “They are also four to seven times more likely to die of other health problems by age 50 than are even-tempered people,” said Williams. For example, people with long drives to work are found to have higher blood pressure than people who take shorter routes to work. One frustrated commuter states, “it feels unnatural to forget about the jerk riding my tail or ducking in front of me to save half a second and some drivers—not me, of course – respond to overaggressive road behavior as if piloting a car were a contest. They drive to ‘win’ rather than simply to get to their destination.”
There are several checklists and tests
developed to help you determine if you are an aggressive driver. One method,
suggested by Dr. Larson was to tape-record yourself while driving and play
back your enraged comments. This will allow you to see how you are really
acting and thinking while behind the wheel. Dr. Zalaquett suggests asking
other people, such as your friends, spouse, other relatives, colleagues
or coworkers. They may have something to tell you about your driving.
Helpful hints for leaving your anger in the dust:
1.) Before you get behind the
See the big picture – what part do you play?
Create a distraction
Helpful tips for bypassing the danger zone
1.) Avoid road hazards: be a
2.) Confrontation detour
3.) Other traffic precautions
4.) If you experience or witness
an aggressive encounter
To reach the goal of safer, more relaxed
driving behavior, people must learn to check their own behavior, rather
than constantly blame other drivers. In several surveys, most people tended
to overrate their own driving compared to the average driver. To better
control your aggression psychologist Redford Williams recommends answering
three yes or no questions:
The Aggressive Driving and Road Rage
(ADRR) page was designed for college students and persons that commute
everyday. The ADRR was created by Carlos P. Zalaquett, Lic., MA., PhD.
The contents were compiled and summarized by Heather Thornton and Dustin
References and Interesting Sites: