When another driver does something wrong on the road, such as braking suddenly without warning or failing to indicate correctly, it can make us feel a little irritated and/or frustrated from time to time.
However, for some individuals, such incidents can cause them to experience what is referred to as road rage. Road rage occurs where a driver displays aggressive and/or violent behaviour on the road as a result of uncontrolled anger regarding the actions of other drivers. Road rage can have detrimental effects on an array of different people and it is very important that a person who experiences road rage identifies it in order to receive the right professional help. Road rage in some cases may be the result of an anger management problem (i.e. inability to control anger) left untreated.
Whatever the cause of a person’s road rage, it is important to understand that road rage is unnecessary and never a good idea. Let’s start by taking a look at some of the most common signs of road rage.
Signs Of Road Rage
There are an array of ways in which a person may demonstrate road rage in response to traffic, and these actions can differ from person to person as well as from one situation to another (for the same individual).
The following actions may indicate an angry driver is experiencing road rage (or in some cases, a driver may experience road rage when on the receiving end of the following):
- regularly feeling stressed and impatient behind the wheel
- speeding/driving faster than is considered safe in particular conditions
- changing lanes without using an indicator and/or changing lanes too closely to the back of another vehicle and then speeding up aggressively to pass by
- complaining about other drivers to any passengers present
- honking the horn
- flashing high beam lights at another driver to show their displeasure
- giving other drivers a ‘filthy look’
- speeding up and or slowing down in order to prevent another driver (i) from being able to change lanes, (ii) from merging safely into traffic or simply to (iii) frustrate another driver/drivers in car(s) behind
- cutting in front abruptly on the road or pushing in front and taking a carpark before another driver
- swearing or making rude gestures
- consistently tailgating (i.e. driving dangerously closely behind another car)
- repeatedly and dangerously weaving in and out across 2, 3, 4 or more lanes of traffic
- revving the engine behind or next to another vehicle
- yelling at other drivers from an open car window
- moving the vehicle suddenly and threateningly
In more unusual, especially dangerous and frightening road rage incidents, a person may demonstrate road rage in one or more of the following ways:
- repeatedly roaring or speeding up behind a vehicle in a way that indicates they may rear-end it
- swerving sideways and/or uncomfortably close to another vehicle
- chasing or pursuing another driver
- stopping or pulling over to argue with, physically attack or assault another driver
- visualising physical violence towards the driver of another vehicle
- trying to cause another vehicle to run off the road as a form of retaliation or punishment
- intentionally ramming another car or causing an accident
Causes Of Road Rage
The reasons or causes for road rage are many, and what triggers feelings of road rage in one person can be different for the next. Many of the above signs of road rage can also be causes of road rage when an angry driver is on the receiving end of such actions. Interestingly, in some cases, it is not so much the actions of another driver or traffic conditions that are the root cause of road rage, but factors beyond the road that affect whether or not or to what degree a person experiences road rage. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of road rage.
In some cases, road rage can be a result of pre-existing and poorly managed stress. When we are experiencing a large amount of stress in our day-to-day lives or in cases where stress is especially high (e.g. losing your job, or personal/family serious illness) and this stress is poorly managed, it can interfere with a person’s ability to calmly handle challenges as they arise on the road.
Characters who are impatient by nature may experience road rage when going about their daily activities on the road, as they wish to and/or expect to be where they need to be as soon as and in as little time as possible. Where their commute from one location to another takes longer than expected, road rage may result.
Where a person is depressed or having trouble managing their anger and feels like the world is against them and nothing is going right, it can cause them to take other people’s mistakes or poor driving on the road personally and these situations can initiate road rage. Additionally, individuals who are very territorial by nature or believe they are superior can also react angrily and aggressively on the road when they feel their territory is threatened (e.g. by having to slow down to allow another driver to merge in front of them on a highway).
Sometimes, road rage can be a result of something as simple as not leaving enough time to get from A to B. When we are rushed, we may not handle difficulties presented to us on the road (such as delays, roadworks or slow drivers) very well compared to when we have allowed extra time to travel somewhere calmly. Similarly, in cases where a person does not wish to arrive at or spend their time at their destination (e.g. a workplace you loathe, a stressful doctor appointment, etc.), this can cause them to feel frustrated and/or have a short fuse when traffic or driver challenges arise on the road. An especially difficult, overcrowded or long commute towards their destination can also cause a person to feel road rage.
A person who is suffering from an underlying mental health illness such as anxiety disorder may feel anxious when driving. This underlying anxiety can cause them to initiate their ‘fight or flight response’ more quickly and without proper thought (i.e. initiate road rage) in some cases compared to individuals who are more calmly and logically able to assess a road situation before choosing whether to/how to react.
An individual who has difficulty controlling their anger or displays violent behaviour may have great difficulty controlling their emotions and outrage when a situation arises on the road that is not agreeable. When someone is feeling very angry towards someone or something else unrelated to the road, it can be easy for them to take out their anger on other drivers. Moreover, a lack of emotional intelligence can contribute to an inability to handle challenging situations on the road, as a person may be lacking the skills to feel and convey the appropriate emotions for a particular situation.
As with other challenging situations or those that require a degree of problem-solving and analysis in life, when an individual is exhausted, it can lead to a reduced ability to deal with difficult or unexpected situations on the road and can cause them to experience road rage when things aren’t going according to plan.
A driver who is conducting a difficult conversation on their mobile phone while trying to simultaneously concentrate on the road may experience road rage when a challenge arises, as their anger or frustration from their conversation can filter into their emotions associated with driving. Similarly, when a person is experiencing arguments with friends or family, this can affect the way they react on the road.
Things You Can Do To Better Manage Your Road Rage
Road rage, especially when due to an inability to effectively manage anger, can cause havoc not only in the life of the enraged driver, but also for drivers on the receiving end of their road rage (and in more serious cases, potentially the families and friends of both parties too). Thankfully, other than seeking professional treatment for any underlying mental illness (such as anger), there are a number of things you can try in order to reduce the likelihood and severity of road rage:
-Avoid making others angry: by driving as safely, reasonably and predictably as possible (including the correct use of indicators, driving at the speed limit, obeying all road rules and considering other drivers) and not reacting to the driving behaviour of others.
-Distance yourself from the situation when you recognise someone driving poorly or an angry/aggressive driver: Avoid making eye contact or responding (for example, by honking your horn) to someone doing the wrong thing or an enraged driver. (Drive directly to the police station if you are in danger).
-Try to have empathy for other drivers: for example, where a driver is trying to merge from an on-ramp into heavy highway traffic. And remember, more often than not, the actions of other drivers are not intended to anger or enrage you.
-You are in control of your personal reactions only: It is very important to remember that you have no control over the reactions or behaviour of other drivers on the road. You also have no control over traffic conditions. Focus your energy on controlling your own reactions while driving, rather than factors outside of yourself.
-Take a deep breath: when you recognise you are feeling angry on the road and try your best to achieve a state of calmness. You can also give listening to some calm and soothing music a shot.
-Leave ample time to drive to your destination: By allowing yourself more time than you need to drive from A to B, you have the opportunity to reduce stress related to not having enough time to travel to where you need to be.
-Ensure you are getting enough sleep: Ideally, 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night is what is required for an average adult to function at their best. When you are rested, you are more likely to better handle your emotions and reactions.
-Try to make a note of what angers you on the road: This way, you can start to get a picture of what exactly causes you to experience road rage and this can help you to forge a pathway ahead in terms of overcoming these feelings.
-Remind yourself it is not worth it: Untreated anger resulting in road rage can have detrimental consequences. It is vitally important to remember that no matter what challenge you find yourself up against on the road, road rage is never worth it.
When left unchecked and/or untreated, road rage can have serious and devastating consequences not only for drivers involved, but also any passengers, nearby pedestrians and associated family and friends. No matter the circumstances, road rage is never worth it and arriving home (or at your destination) safely is of far more importance and significance than taking a risk and trying to teach another driver a lesson, no matter their behaviour on the road.
If you believe your road rage is a result of an anger management problem, feel free to get in touch with our friendly and professional team at Brain Wellness Spa. Our staff will work together with you towards overcoming your anger and having you feeling calm and in control of your anger once more.