Do you struggle with feelings of anger or rage while driving? Have you tailgated someone, yelled at other drivers, cut other cars off, made rude hand gestures towards another driver, or worse? Has there ever been a time that you have caught yourself reacting to other aggressive drivers negatively? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have road rage.
Road rage is defined by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as a time when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle.”
Road rage is both a scary and prevalent thing. Safe Motorist (2018) gives us the following statistics (compiled from the NHTSA and the Auto Vantage auto club):
- 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
- 37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.
- Males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage.
- Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves.
- Over a seven year period, 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage.
- 2% of drivers admit to trying to run an aggressor off the road!
Think about the times that you have experienced road rage. Were you the person exhibiting road rage, or were you the recipient of someone else’s aggressive behavior?
Here are some tips to stop road rage from occurring:
- Think about the consequences. Is being rageful or responding to someone else’s demonstration of rage worth it? If so, what do you get out of it? If you answer these questions honestly, you will realize that there is no benefit to having or responding to someone else’s road rage. Therefore, instead of having road rage, make every effort to let it go. This will also minimize feelings of anger and rage.
- Use empathy. Empathy is one of the most important anger management skills and is also highly effective when utilized. Next time someone is presenting with road rage, think about the reasons they may be behaving this way. For example, maybe a rushed driver had an emergency. By using this type of skill, you can make anger impersonal by using empathy.
- Let go of control. Usually, when we are exhibiting or responding with rage, we are trying to take control of a situation. Here is something to remember: you actually have more control when you let things go. It seems strange, but if you let someone pass who is tailgating you, move out of the way for an aggressive driver, or calmly pass a slow driver, you likely will have little to no emotional reaction. This is because you are dealing with things in a logical and calm manner. This allows you to keep control, by letting go. It is important to remember that the only person you can control is yourself.
- Do not drive when angry. This is a fundamental skill that we teach at Anger Management U. If you are angry, instead take a break and calm down. Getting into a vehicle may tempt to you drive aggressively or to put you or others in danger. Driving is not a safe or effective coping skill, even if you think it is. Have a backup plan for when you get angry and need a break, like taking a walk or exercising.