Each year, an average of 1,500 people are killed or injured in incidents of road rage. A study completed in 1997 showed that incidents were increasing every year. The study showed that people of any age and any background can become victims and it also showed that almost anyone is a potential perpetrator (Louis Mizell, Inc. , 1997). Fortunately, there are things that can help us avoid becoming victims of road rage, as well as things that can be done to help us avoid becoming perpetrators. What exactly is road rage? To answer this question, we must distinguish between the titles of aggressive driving and road rage.
Aggressive driving is defined as when a person is violating the laws of traffic, for example, changing lanes without a turn signal or tailgating the vehicle in front of them. In other words, it is the rude behavior displayed by many drivers ever day who are running late for some event, and are in the midst of slower moving traffic (Hohn, R. L. , 2001). If you think you may be an aggressive driver, you should consider the fact that aggressive drivers are responsible for 66% of traffic fatalities every year (Thornton, H. & Thornton, D. , 2007).
Road rage is defined as the point when a traffic incident sparks violence in one or both of the parties involved in the incident. The violence can range anywhere from physical assault to murder (Hohn, R. L. , 2001). One of the reasons that road rage is so frightening is that it is somewhat difficult to put a profile on who the perpetrators are. In most cases, the perpetrator will be a male between the ages of 18 and 26. Many of them will be uneducated, and it is likely that they will already have a history of violence, drug abuse or alcoholism.
When interviewed, their friends and relatives will not express much surprise at the crime the perpetrator has committed. But there are also many cases where the exact opposite is true. The perpetrators in these cases can be men or women of any age, who have led seemingly happy, successful lives. They have no known history of violence or addiction problems, and when their relatives and friends are interviewed, they express extreme disbelief and doubt that the perpetrator has committed the act they are accused of. There is however, a common thread that links these two extremes.
The link lies in that the perpetrator has some type of stress, anger or frustration that they are dealing with at the time of the incident (Louis Mizell, Inc. , 1997). When they are “assaulted” by a person driving aggressively, it can push the perpetrator over the edge, and they overreact, sometimes with horrible consequences. To illustrate how completely out of control a “road rager” can become, I will use the example of former Maryland state legislator Robin Ficker. In August of 1995 he was traveling with his two sons to a local hospital to visit with his ailing father.
He bumped into the back of a vehicle driven by a young woman. When the woman got out of her car and approached Mr. Ficker, he became enraged and began screaming at her. He then hit the young woman in the face hard enough to break her glasses, giving her a black eye. The most shocking part of this story is that the young woman was 6 months pregnant (Louis Mizell, Inc. , 1997). Many times, there are weapons involved in incidents of road rage. Out of the 10,037 incidents reported by Louis Mizell, Inc, 6,700 of them involved the use of some type of weapon. All types of weapons have been used, anything from 4X4s to ice picks.
But the most popular weapons are firearms, which were used in 37% of the cases, followed closely by the use of the vehicle itself as a weapon, which occurred in 35% of cases. As it turns out, vehicles are a popular choice for a weapon when it comes to female road ragers. Of the 10,037 incidents mentioned in the previous study, only 413 were known to have involved a female perpetrator. Vehicles were used as a weapon in 285, or 69% of those cases (Louis Mizell, Inc. , 1997). There are some things that can be done to prevent road rage on both the sides of the victims and the perpetrators.
If you are the type of person who becomes extremely angry when faced with aggressive drivers, you may someday become a perpetrator of road rage, and you should work at changing your attitude toward the situations you are faced with. You should try to remember that everyone makes mistakes, if someone cuts you off in traffic, remind yourself that they may not have done it intentionally. Even if you think they were well aware of what they were doing, you must ask yourself if confronting the person is worth losing your life or your freedom over (Louis Mizell, Inc. 1997).
There are better options when faced with a person who is driving recklessly. For example, you can report the person to law enforcement. Most of the time, there will be a specific number that you can call on your cell phone to report drivers who are driving aggressively. Of course, you should always allow your passenger to handle the cell phone, or pull over to the side of the road before using it (Hohn, R. L. , 1991). In addition, it should be noted that being angry all of the time does have health risks.
In fact a person with a typical road rager personality is 5 to 7 times more likely to die from health complications by the age of 50 when compared to the average person (Thornton, D. & Thornton, H. , 2007). As a driver, you should learn to avoid the behaviors that can spark road rage. For example, do not block lanes of traffic, use your horn excessively, tailgate or take up more than one parking space. As far as behavior is concerned, never use obscene gestures and if another motorist becomes irritated with you, do not make eye contact with the individual (Louis Mizell, Inc. 1997).
When you do make a mistake while driving it helps to make an effort to apologize. Interviews with people accused of road rage incidents show that 85% of them stated they would not have become so angry if the offending party had simply apologized (awesomelibrary. org, 2007). An article on awesomelibrary. org actually recommends that you fabricate a “sorry” sign and keep it in a place that can easily be accessed while driving. In the case you inadvertently make a mistake while driving, you can simply display the sign to the offended party.
It may sound silly, but according to the author of the article, it seems to work quite well. Of course, if you feel using the sign is going to distract you from driving, refrain from using it. Nearly all of us have been careless behind the wheel at some point in time. We must remember that not only do we put ourselves and others at a very real risk for injury or death, but that we may also be provoking someone who is psychologically on the edge. It does not take very much aggravation to provoke some people to do unthinkable things.
Some people have been murdered because they were driving too slowly, or because they couldn’t figure out how to turn off their car alarm. We need to remain aware of the triggers that can cause people to react violently, and try our best to avoid them. Anyone who feels they are extremely aggravated during driving on a regular basis should examine the root causes of the anger. Hopefully, working from both ends of the problem, we can begin reducing the senseless tragedies that occur all too frequently on our highways.