Exploring Road Rage…

Today we are preparing for a transuburban trek to visit my family 60 km North of us.  If there is one thing my Viking husband fears, it is me behind the wheel and him trapped in the passenger seat.  Last time we drove to Stratford (about 2.5 hours), he yelled that I was going to have a nervous breakdown due to my road rage issues.  In the end, he had one before I did.  All those Globe and Mail articles about women being “gatekeepers” and being anal about housework, is the opposite in my household, as I am married to a groomzilla who had several excel spreadsheets in 15 min increments of all people and tasks for our wedding.  I was the reluctant bride who was told by my Dragon Mother before the wedding, “Just marry him.  You can easily get divorced later if it doesn’t work out.”  After the wedding, she said, “Divorce is out of the question!  Do you know how much paperwork is involved!”  I have not learned the fine art of manipulation yet, as my worst vice is brutal honesty which gets me into trouble a lot. But I digress…


Merriam-Webster definition of road rage (noun)

: a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior

First Known Use of ROAD RAGE; 1988

Now I wanted to know – how do they know this was the year of the first known use of road rage?!  This cited year came from the August ’98 issue of Atlantic Monthly, when  journalist Michael Fumento cites evidence that this term firm appeared in 1988 and before that it was referred to as “aggressive driving”.  He believes the this phrase is a pure media invention for sensational story telling as since it’s creation was based on “roid rage,” referring to sudden violent activity by people on steroids.  “Road rage” and its supposed epidemic was then quickly made popular by  lobbying groups, politicians, opportunistic therapists, publicity-seeking safety agencies, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Let’s accept the phrase “road rage” as  aggressive behaviors by the driver of a motor vehicle, which seem well beyond the perceived offense committed by the victim.  According to Dr. Randy A. Sansone, a number of factors may contribute to road rage:

  •  environmental factors (greater number of miles driven per day, traffic density)
  • nonspecific psychological factors (displaced aggression, attribution of blame to others)
  • Axis I (alcohol and substance misuse) or II disorders (borderline and antisocial personality disorders)

The good news he reveals, is that while studies show one-third of drivers claim to have road road, far fewer drivers (≤2%) actually report serious threatening behavior or damage to another person or vehicle.  As well, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) group and Statistic Brain (US data) reveal that “distraction” is one of the major factors in actual car crashes.  Cell phones = common distraction. Drivers engaged in text messaging on a cellular phone are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers.  Road rage was not listed anywhere.

Some people believe that road rage is solely due to psychological character trails –  Type A people are more prone to react to stress, making them more competitive, ambitious, impatient and aggressive; so they are more likely to engage in road rage.  Type A personality types are also more likely to develop stress-related illnesses such as Coronary Artery Disease, high blood pressure etc.  Of course, as with much research, these traits were developed from studies on middle age males, so there is uncertainty in application to females.

Online there are many quizzes for one to determine if they are a  type A.  Looking at the questions below, I say “yes” to about 6/9 so I guess I’m a Type A (is my Viking a Super Type A then?!).  I theorize that I get road rage due to my lack of patience for people combined with my anxiety/stress about driving as I don’t drive very often.  My lack in sense of direction adds to it as well.  The Viking likes to ask me where East is once in a while and mocks me with delight when I get it wrong – lots of scarring on this front here…I guess I’ll try to write more to make more money to take taxis everywhere!  Or come up with some psychology test and theory, then make big bucks by making people pay for them!  Either way works!

Here are some adapted items from the interviews and questionnaires used to determine the Type A personality. Which are you?

(Affirmative responses suggest Type A personality)

• Are you pressed for time at and after work?

• Do you always take work home with you?

• Do you eat rapidly?

• Do you have a strong need to excel?

• Do you have trouble finding time to get your hair cut/styled?

• Do you feel or act impatient when you have to wait in line?

Hostility-related items:

• Do you get irritated easily?

• Are you bossy and domineering?

• When you were younger was your temper fiery and difficult to control?

 Curing road rage

Ehow has a list of instructions on how to “cure” road rage:

1. Get adequate sleep each night
2. Create a relaxing atmosphere in your car.
3. Refrain from driving under stress.
4. Keep your distance from hazardous drivers.
5. Take deep breaths to get calm.
6. Don’t take the actions of an aggressive driver personally.
7. Keep in mind the lives of all motorists.

They all sound reasonable, so good luck to those that have to cope as well!