The phrase road rage or “mad drivers disease” was invented in the 1980’s by a Californian newspaper when a truck driver was shot dead by a Cadillac driver whom he cut up on the freeway. Motorists have always been involved with on the road violence and madness ever since motor vehicles were introduced to our roads. There are however, newspaper reports from the 1920’s that recall frenzied drivers leaping out of their cars and bashing each other’s headlights. Motorists have been shot for such trivial reasons as turning too slowly or simply for just being there on the road. Recent years have also witnessed the escalation of vicious encounters on the roads’ leading to rude, dirty, and aggressive episodes often with physical violence and killings as an outcome.
The sight of people fighting or shooting each other raises the possibility of psychopathic behaviour on the roads. There are three reasons why road rage is on the increase. First, there are too many cars competing for too little road space, which means we grow agitated as rats in an over-populated cage, experiments show they attack each other. Second, cars now feel too safe, which leads to over confidence. A car symbolizes power; road conditions create impotence. The result is bewildered rage. The third, some drivers are less courteous and considerate to other road users than some years ago. By comparison there has been a universal deterioration in people’s attitudes in society, and this is reflected in their driving behaviour. These three elements together have made an explosive mixture.
There are two groups of people who are likely to succumb to road rage. People with anti-social personality disorders or people who believe they are special and those they know what is right. They are also likely to misinterpret small incidents on the road and attempt to do something about it. Most road rage offenders are perfectly normal human beings who have no criminal record of violence.
There is beyond doubt a barbaric streak deep inside some drivers that inflames when they get behind the wheel. Driving in congested town or city traffic, which is an ideal breading ground for road rage, can influence this irrational driving behaviour. Similarly, our overcrowded roads are similar to the way animals behave in the wild. Dominance is very similar in the concrete jungle as it is in nature. The desire to assert dominance is down to whose got the biggest antlers? Other people mostly dictate our lives.
When drivers get into their cars they are in command of what is happening. That sense of mastery can result in a sense of superiority. Anything seen as a threat to that superiority, such as a car tailgating provokes an aggressive reaction. The car itself becomes a sort of weapon. People who are generally mild-mannered start raising their fists or shout verbal abuse. The car itself gives a false sense of security. Some drivers feel powerful in a car, but they also feel everybody is out to get them. Quite often you see drivers sticking up a finger in a way they would never imagine of outside a car.
During normal driving, our stress levels increase and this stress accumulates when drivers worry needlessly that they must keep to strict timetables, their vehicle may get stuck in a traffic jam, another vehicle may crash into it or it may break down. Before anything happens, drivers have already got themselves into a state of anxiety and when something does occur, they are primed to explode. Some drivers even turn into psychopathic road warriors. There is also greater anger in society and greater need to outdo other people driving past them. Those with powerful cars inadvertently issue a biological challenge and this can escalate into vehicle combat.
When drivers are engaged in vehicle combat the body starts to produce adrenaline. Similarly, if the body produces too much adrenaline it responds in one of three ways. Flight (run away) freezes or fights. If either driver chooses to fight he or she can undergo a severe personality switch, changing from a person of quite normal disposition to an irrational psychopath. We are in danger of trivializing rage and using it as an excuse for a whole range of unacceptable emotions. Each time someone makes a rude gesture or cuts you up on the road we dub it road rage. This is more often plane rudeness than rage. Someone who has had a bad day at work and wanted to shout at his or her boss may be the person who has road rage on the way home.
The crux of road rage is that the other driver was in the wrong: they have been driving badly not me. Road rage is just part of a wider phenomenon that boils down to the fact that other drivers don’t seem to like other motorists very much. They seem to dislike the behaviour of other drivers. But when it comes to their own behaviour, drivers consider them selves mostly as little angels. When someone is on the verge of anger he or she needs time to slow the process down. Don’t rise to the bait – you must remain cool. Back down and try not to engage with them verbally.
If you do acknowledge the anger say something like “You’re obviously very upset by something I’ve done.” Always be patient and tolerant whilst driving behind the wheel. Anything you do to irritate another driver will increase the chance of a collision. If another driver shows lack of care or good manners, never retaliate. Keep driving normally and do not speed. Under no circumstances give chase – what would you achieve? The hand gesturing at you out of the window is as likely to be holding a gun as an assortment of fingers.
The ten most common causes of road rage are as follows:
1. Aggressive tailgating.
2. Angry headlight flashing.
3. Making obscene gestures.
4. Deliberately obstructing other vehicles.
5. Giving verbal abuse.
6. Unnecessary centre or outer lane cruising.
7. Driving too slowly.
8. Emerging or cutting in front of closely approaching traffic.
9. Not signalling where necessary.
10. Angry horn tooting.
Here are some does and don’ts for reducing road rage risks:
· Forget the row you had with your spouse over the burnt toast/the business of the day, and concentrate on your driving.
· Lock your doors and close your sunroof to avoid unauthorized entry.
· Try and stay calm if another driver provokes you.
· Avoid eye contact with your aggressor.
· Attempt to drive away from the scene if your crazed assailant approaches your vehicle to avoid further confrontation.
· Take a note of your aggressor’s license plate details and report the incident to the police.
· Put your radio, CD or music player on to distract you in tense situations such as traffic jams.
· Count from one to ten to stop you leaping out of your vehicle in a blind rage.
· Show courtesy to other drivers, which can calm ruffled tempers.
· Acknowledge your driving faults by apologizing to the other driver.
· Keep your emotions in check and think about the consequences of your behaviour before you react.
· See a psychiatrist if you cannot control your road rage.
· Make rude gestures to your assailant.
· Get even if you are assaulted.
· Overreact to what is already a tense situation.
· Carry items in your car that could be used as a dangerous weapon.
· Shout or bawl if you are provoked.
· Challenge your aggressor if you are confronted.
· Leave the safety of your vehicle if you sense trouble or threaten your aggressor.
· Retaliate by slamming on your brakes suddenly, flashing lights or honking.
· Goad your assailant into vehicle combat.
· Many parking space disagreements result in violence. Stealing some one else’s parking space may provoke aggressive reactions.
· Make sure your vehicle takes up only one parking space.