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.