Road Rage: An Epidemic Affecting All of Us

by Terry Bryant

 

Road Rage Dangers

Think you’re immune from the road rage epidemic?

Whether you mainly travel down familiar Houston roads and freeways or often visit other parts of the country, chances are you’ve seen a number of road rage incidents. Yet while we all tend to think only “other people” behave in this manner, a new study provides some rather surprising facts about this behavior.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s study released on July 14, 2016, states that about 80% of us displayed road rage toward another driver (at least once) during 2015. Apparently, most of us could really use some psychological help handling this type of stress.

Road rage takes many forms

The study indicates that two of the most extreme forms of road rage include purposefully hitting or tailgating another car while angry – or getting out of your vehicle and actually yelling at another driver. A large percentage of people just swear at others while remaining in their cars.

Of course, the very worst forms of road rage can lead to serious physical injuries or even death – especially when one driver forces another one off the road – or into oncoming traffic.

Houston sees just as many of these incidents as other cities

A rather extreme incident of road rage occurred on FM 1960 in May of this year and was captured on cell phone video. Four different people were later interviewed by the police. Two men hit each other and then one woman was hit who tried to break up the fight. One man also threw a drink at another and someone purposefully kicked the grille of the other person’s car. ABC 13 Eyewitness news has the video posted on its website.

Like so many other similar incidents, this one apparently spun quickly out of control after one party apparently misread why another driver made a specific maneuver in his car.

Most common forms of road rage behavior that we must all stop exhibiting

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Study listed all of the following immature and often dangerous activities:

  • At least half of us display road rage by tailgating other vehicles – greatly increasing the chances of an accident;
  • Almost half of all road rage perpetrators yell or honk at others when they’re offended by other drivers;
  • Close to one-third (33%) of us make rude gestures with our hands at others;
  • About one-fourth (25%) of us try to stop another vehicle from changing lanes;
  • Over 10 percent (10%) of us even purposefully prevent another vehicle from going where it’s headed – we try to “cut if off” as an act of revenge.

Certain people are a bit more likely than others to display road rage

Since about 80% of us sometimes engage in this type of behavior, we really can’t just point the finger at others. However, there are some drivers who do seem to get involved in more road rage incidents. These individuals tend to be between the ages of 19 and 39 (especially young men). In fact, males are three times more likely than women to jump out of their vehicles to confront others about supposedly wrongful driving behavior.

Simple and obvious remedies must be employed – by all of us – to stop road rage

  • Try to react calmly in response to someone else’s foolish or dangerous behavior. Keep in mind that we all make driving errors more often than we’d like to admit. Take a deep breath or two and just keep driving on your way — without stopping and escalating the situation;
  • Make a conscious effort to avoid making eye contact with the other person. Try just to forgive the other person since they may not have sought to upset you. Everyone has bad days, and you may have encountered the other person on an especially bad day when s/he was just fired, learned about a serious medical diagnosis or had a terrible argument with someone else prior to getting in their car;
  • Call 9-1-1 if you see that others have stopped and are physically hitting or threatening each other. You should make this call after driving past the incident and stopping in a safe location, clearly off the road. Try to give the police an accurate description of each vehicle and what you believe you saw;
  • Ask yourself if you have personally been cited for illegal behavior like speeding or running red lights in recent months. If you have been ticketed for such behavior – you fall into a group of drivers that tend to be more likely than others to express road rage. Consider getting some psychological help to cope more appropriately with your most troubling emotional issues;
  • Find new, less congested pathways to your destinations. Many of us just can’t handle having to battle dense traffic, especially during rush hour. Either look for less congested ways of getting to where you need to go – or consider taking some form of mass transit to and from work or various appointments.