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A 2016 survey found that around eight million US drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver. ( ScienceDaily,” 2016)

Road Rage

“Road rage is aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by a driver of a road vehicle, which includes rude gestures, verbal insults, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted toward another driver in an effort to intimidate or release frustration. Road rage can lead to altercations, assaults and collisions that result in serious physical injuries or even death. It can be referred to as an extreme case of aggressive driving. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety that examined police records nationally, there are more than 1,200 incidents of road rage on average reported per year in the United States, a number of which have ended with serious injuries or even fatalities.” (“Road rage,” 2017)

Consider asking your clients/patients with anger issues the following questions:

  • “Do you regularly drive over the speed limit, or try to "beat" red lights because you are in a hurry?

  • Do you tailgate or flash your headlights at a driver in front of you that you believe is driving too slowly?

  • Do you honk the horn often?

  • Do you ever use obscene gestures or otherwise communicate angrily at another driver?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it is possible that the individual is susceptible to road rage. Many times, when a road rage incident occurs it is because the person was under stress in other areas of their life. The addition of congested traffic can add to stress, which then explodes when it is perceived someone else on the road has acted in an aggressive way, whether intentional or not. (“What Causes Road Rage | Road Rage Defined | How to Deal with Road Rage,” 2017)

“Psychologists are studying what makes some people more prone to road rage and how to keep them from becoming a danger on the road. Research suggests that young males are the most likely to perpetrate road rage. Environmental factors such as crowded roads can boost anger behind the wheel. Certain psychological factors, including displaced anger and high life stress, are also linked to road rage. In addition, studies have found that people who experience road rage are more likely to misuse alcohol and drugs.

Understanding what fuels this dangerous behavior may help psychologists to curb it. In studies of anger and aggressive driving, counseling psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, of Colorado State University, found that people who identified themselves as high-anger drivers differ from low-anger drivers in five key ways.

  • They engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. They're more likely to insult other drivers or express disbelief about the way others drive. Their thoughts also turn more often to revenge, which sometimes means physical harm.

  • They take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers are more likely to go 10 to 20 mph over the speed limit, rapidly switch lanes, tailgate and enter an intersection when the light turns red.

  • High anger drivers get angry faster and behave more aggressively. They're more likely to swear or name-call, to yell at other drivers, to honk in anger. And they're more likely to be angry not just behind the wheel, but throughout the day.

  • High-anger drivers had twice as many car accidents in driving simulations. They also report more near-accidents and get more tickets for speeding.

  • Short-fused drivers experience more trait anger, anxiety and impulsiveness. Perhaps from work or home stress, high-anger drivers are more likely to get in the car angry; they also tend to express their anger outward and act impulsively. (“The Fast and the Furious,” 2014)

Current treatment for road rage include a combination of relaxation and cognitive interventions. Generally, a reduction in the frequency and intensity of anger is forthcoming. However, unexpected events, such as being cutoff by another driver, etc., may trigger a resurgence in emotional arousal. Altering the subcortical brain mechanisms involved in initiating the response would appear to be a more productive and efficient way to address this growing problem.

Many of our Pilot Study combat veterans with PTSD reported road rage tendencies prior to treatment with RESET Therapy. Following this intervention, none had this difficulty following four treatment sessions. This occurred without any specific focus directed towards the road rage difficulty. In other words, this change occurred consequent to their PTSD remediation. We are currently involved in the provision of RESET Therapy to a PTSD veteran who was adjudicated due to his drawing a loaded weapon during a road rage episode. This is a first step in our exploration of how RESET might assist within the context of the existing Veteran’s Court system. Results forthcoming from this case study will be provided in a future blog.

I’m including a vignette from one of our successfully treated veterans. While in Bosnia in 2002, as a member of the NATO peacekeeping force, this U.S. Army sergeant was involved in the discovery of as many as 10 holes in the ground where rampaging Serbs attempted to conceal their atrocities since 1995. One such site contained 417 corpses. The sergeant watched grieving survivors flock to the excavation sites, scouring the remains for clues to the identity of the victims. Even after seven years in the ground, the handiwork of an ‘ethnic cleansing’ massacre outside Srebrenica emitted a stench that made him gag.

“I was experiencing high levels of intrusive memories, psychological distress, emotional physiological reactivity as well as a great deal of anger toward my family and those around me. I remember threatening a driver and his passengers at a traffic stop with a handgun. My internalized anger evolved into road-rage. I became a living portrait of Jekyll-Hyde that: kept losing it in traffic; became hypervigilant for tailgaters; was ready to bolt from my SUV at the next intersection to physically confront the perceived offenders.”

“Following my RESET Therapy treatment, almost all of my distressing symptoms have abated. Certain stimuli can still elicit some distress, but this is now manageable. You know how the weather radar has looked in a storm with angry reds and orange? My initial EEG Brain Map looked like I was in the middle of an intensive downpour. It was like six inches of rain and flooding over the next hour in every adjacent direction. After my treatment experience, my angry reds and oranges had dissolved into balmy greens. It was all clear skies - debilitating symptoms obliterated.”

“I was able to go to the VFW for the first time, and felt sufficiently comfortable to talk with others. I went on an ‘Easter egg hunt,’ not for Easter eggs, but for the weapons I had secreted around my home. I removed six guns from hiding places in my house that I had placed in spots where I felt vulnerable. I didn’t know I had that many that I had placed in the shower, behind the toilet, in my shaving drawer, underneath the dining room table, and mounted in the cupboard behind the dishes. I hadn’t given any thought to my children in the house who would have had access to these weapons. Wow! I now realize that I’ve narrowly escaped tragedy. Now I sleep great. I went from driving this big-ass V-8 Tundra with god knows how many guns I had in it, praying for a confrontation on the road, to driving a four-cylinder Honda Hybrid getting 49 miles a gallon in the right lane. How about that for a life-changer?”



Road rage.

The Fast and the Furious.

What Causes Road Rage | Road Rage Defined | How to Deal with Road Rage.

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