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Road Rage: Getting it under control
Posted: April 22, 2009
Last Updated: April 22, 2009

Road Rage: Getting it under control


Last week while tooling down the road to my home I glanced in the rear view mirror to find a blue truck tailgating me. My backseat was packed with three kids, and seeing the grill of the truck dominating my rear window was rather worrisome. I made certain to put my turn signal on so I wouldn’t get rear ended when I turned at the next block. Instead of backing off, my tailgater felt the need to honk loudly, drive into the bike lane to pass me, and flip me off when I started to turn.


For one brief moment I wanted to hit the gas and ram into this rude driver. I wasn’t thinking about the three kids in the car, the on coming traffic or the fact it is very illegal to ram others with your car. I was in the midst of what psychologists call “road rage,” uncontrolled anger directed at a fellow commuter on the road due to traffic mishaps or misunderstanding—or just plain unsafe driving.


I’m not alone in my decent into rage at the slightest traffic snafu. According to recent surveys by the RAC Foundation over 87 percent of drivers said they had been the victims of road rage at least once. More startling 71 percent claimed to have indulged in road rage and a majority of those felt justified in their aggressive response to fellow drivers.


Incidences of road rage and, its lesser form aggressive driving, have drastically increased in the last decade. Last year the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declared road rage the most pressing traffic safety problem facing America today with 50 percent of traffic accidents having aggressive driving as a contributing factor, based on the Washington Beltway Study.

According to sociologists, road rage is just another sign of the deterioration of civility in modern society. With the building stress in our society, the congested roadways, and the hours commuters sit behind the wheel everyday, it was only a matter of time before America’s stress and upset exploded in rage.

Here are some ways to combat your upset when driving and squash road rage before it gets a grip on you:

·         Stop obsessing about slow traffic. If you know the traffic will be slow leave earlier or take music or a book on tape to listen to so the time is spent pleasantly, not obsessing if the next lane is going faster than you are.

·         Don’t feel combative with self-righteous indignation. Yes, he may just have cut you off, but think about the times you may have done the same to someone else. We all make mistakes as drivers, we need to be forgiving—not vengeful.

·         Don’t get excessively combative. Don’t carry weapons in your car as you might be tempted to use them when in the grip of road rage. Don’t get out of your car to confront people. Try and realize you are driving a car, not in the middle of a Roman coliseum with the spectators calling for blood. You don’t need to injure people to make a point, a honking horn is enough.

·         Stop being overly critical of other drivers. Maybe they are driving too slow or turned without signaling, but remember that we all make mistakes and adjust for it. Yelling and flipping people off for minor mistakes will only come back to haunt you later (like the time I yelled at a bad driver only to realize it was my boss!).

·         Leave risky driving behind you. Remember traffic laws are there for the safety of everyone. Remember to drive the speed limit and follow the rules of the road. Risky driving causes accidents and even if you are dying to catch up with that car that cut you off, it is safer for everyone that you drive safely.

Safety experts also say if forced off the road by an upset driver to never leave your car or confront the person. Call for help with a cell phone or get back on the road and to the nearest police station to report the incident. Other, more techno-savvy, experts say to carry a digital camera or cell phone so you can take a picture of the person threatening you. Sometimes being reminded that the world is watching can snap people out of their rage.

If you are experiencing constant road rage it might point to an anger problem, and anger management can help teach you techniques to calm down before you endanger others and yourself on the road.

If you are interested in learning more about anger management call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.

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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.