So-called "road rage" runs the gamut from cranky commuters laying on the horn to full-on assault with a deadly weapon. And yet "road rage" is a relatively new term. Could the use of it be reckless in itself?
By some accounts, up to 90% of us will encounter road rage, either as a victim or as a witness, at one time or another in any given year. But law enforcement officials and experts in public safety emphasize the importance of making a distinction between aggressive driving and road rage.
What is the difference between road rage and aggressive driving?
There is no scientific definition for road rage, but many road safety experts agree that it is a criminal matter, not a threat to road safety. It occurs when a traffic incident escalates, resulting in a far more serious situation, such as if someone overreacts to an event and retaliates with violence. In some locations, road rage is illegal and linked to assault in the penal code. So, the term should be used to classify intentional acts of violence and assault that happen in the context of driving. In other words, assault is assault no matter where it takes place.
Aggressive driving, on the other hand, is a whole cluster of bad or inconsiderate driving behaviours. These are the more commonplace, but negligent, driving habits, including rude gestures, horn-honking, speeding, tailgating, failing to signal, driving on the shoulder to pass other cars, and unsafe lane changes.
Of course, any of these behaviours could also result in a situation where retaliation turns violent. But more often, no physical harm is done. Often it is a case of stressed, frustrated drivers taking a mistake too personally and reacting without thought to consequence. Could that be called "rage"? Perhaps, but calling it thus could fuel fears and undermine the seriousness of those confrontations that turn into assault.
What are the characteristics of a likely "road-rager"?
On a statistical level, men under 30 are most often the offenders and the victims of road rage. But anyone could be struck by road rage. The difference is that most people are able to suppress urges to react.
In psychological terms, road rage is sometimes associated with impulse control disorders, including compulsive gambling and stealing. Psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher contends that "high-anger" drivers tend to be more aggressive drivers. They're apt to be more vocal with insults and comments about other drivers, and more vengeful and quick to anger.
What can I do about my own road anger or frustrations?
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