Driving is never easy. Every time you enter your vehicle and start the engine, you take on a great responsibility: for your own life and safety, and for the life and safety of pedestrians and other drivers. Perhaps, this is why many drivers feel psychological tension and pressure—especially considering that in big cities, they have to spend countless hours in traffic jams, seek for parking spaces all the time, be assaulted by polluted air, and so on. Sometimes all this stress may manifest itself in the form of bursts of anger; when these occur when a person is driving a car, this is called road rage. Unfortunately, road rage can be harmful—for the driver and the drivers nearby.
Road rage was first paid attention to in the end of 1980s, when there was a series of shootings on California highways; the term itself was coined by the anchors of KTLA TV channel, highlighting the incidents. Since that time, there have been thousands of reports regarding road rage. Unfortunately, this condition is not uncommon: anger can reach its peak in seconds, but its consequences can be dire. Perhaps, every driver knows the situation when, during a traffic jam, someone driving in front starts to change lanes, breaking all the rules, or when a pedestrian suddenly jumps out of nowhere right in front of a car. It is normal to feel annoyed in such cases, although, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road rage is different; in particular, it is defined as “any unsafe driving maneuver performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety”: which means that road rage is a condition not necessarily provoked by the situation on the road, but rather the continuation of a driver’s ill temper, stressful life situation, poor anger management skills, and so on. One of the notorious cases of road rage happened in 2011, in Concord, N.H. A young woman, Corrine Leclair-Holler, 29, pregnant with a child, was driving down the road while talking on her cellphone. Another driver, Carissa Williams, driving nearby with her baby in the car, for no obvious reason, yelled at Corrine, then pulled ahead, stopped Corrine’s car, and shot her with a stun gun. Corrine cried that she was pregnant, but it did not stop the attacker. As a result, both Corrine and her baby are fine, and Carissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison for assault and endangering the life of a child (Web MD).
The trick is that when a person sits down in the car and starts the engine, he or she tends to perceive driving as their personal experience, and assumes other drivers on the road possess the same skills and responsibilities. However, this is a misconception: driving is a communal activity; so, since there is a number of people engaged, we need to consider that there are other drivers on the road as well—that each of them has his or her own goals, temper, driving skills and experience, and so on. According to Dr. Leon James and Dr. Diane Nahl, if we separate ourselves from the communal activity which driving is, we tend to perceive the actions of other drivers as a personal offense, as something disrupting our personal experience of driving a car—instead of seeing them as simple manifestations of other people’s skills. For example, if we are being cut off, we may feel like that driver has the purpose of doing it to us—although it might just be inexperience or inattention. With such an outlook, reacting with anger is natural, because our safety is violated, and anger is a natural response to danger—which does not mean, however, that the outlook itself is correct. Reacting with anger to other drivers’ maneuvers only escalates the situation, and does not help solve it. Besides, Dr. James believes that there are more reasons of why road rage is so widespread in the United States. One of them could be cultural habits; since childhood, people drive with their parents and witness how they react to everyday situations on the road, or what they do. Traffic light racing, driving at high speeds, cutting other drivers off—children memorize such behaviors, and reproduce them when they grow up. Another reason is that, according to Dr. James, the American mentality does not tolerate backing away, seeing it as cowardice. So, even if you did not start a conflict situation with another driver, you might feel that backing away (and thus avoiding further confrontation and possible harm) is not an option, and have to react with anger in response, thus only fueling the conflict (HowStuffWorks).
Changing your mindset will help you avoid bursts of anger in the future, but what if you need to cope with road rage when it grips you? Fortunately, there are ways to decrease anger to a controllable and tolerable level, and thus prevent yourself from causing harm or being harmed. The first thing you need to do is to feel your anger. When indulging in road rage, drivers rarely notice their furious condition: they are overwhelmed by the situation on the road, and are driven by their emotions (pun unintended). Surprisingly, simply noticing you are getting angry may help you maintain control over yourself; the signs of anger rising are clenched fists and teeth (as well as overall muscle tension), vengeful thoughts, cursing and speaking out loudly to other drivers even when they cannot hear you, headaches, and so on. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, know that you might be close to a road rage burst; take a deep breath, and try to focus on just getting from point A to point B. Imagine what might happen to you—all the negative consequences, from injury to jail—if you succumb to your anger. This way you will distract yourself from anger, and even if it does not go away completely, you will be aware of its presence, and will be able to hold it back (WikiHow).
Road rage is a condition that is dangerous for both who is angry, and for those whom this anger is directed against. Thousands of road rage incidents are reported from all across the United States annually. Road rage is believed to be the reaction to the situation on the road, which a driver perceives as a violation of his/her personal driving experience and safety; this reaction includes performing dangerous driving maneuvers, cutting other drivers off, injuring or shooting them, and so on. There are ways to cope with rising anger while driving: slow deep breathing, focusing on the driving process, and staying aware of your anger should help in the majority of cases.
Davis, Susan. “Road Rage: What It Is, How to Avoid It.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/road-rage-what-it-is-how-to-avoid-it#1.
Strickland, Jonathan. “How Road Rage Works.” HowStuffWorks, HowStuffWorks, 25 Sept. 2007, auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/accidents-hazardous-conditions/road-rage1.htm.
Griffin, Trudi, and WikiHow. “How to Stay Calm During Road Rage.” WikiHow, WikiHow, 8 Nov. 2017, www.wikihow.com/Stay-Calm-During-Road-Rage.