Road rage

Road rage is a symptom of living in the modern world. We all recognise that feeling of frustration we sometimes experience on our roads – you are running late, you’re caught in traffic, someone in front of you is suddenly driving in a manner which is infuriating to you – most of us have expressed the odd swear word or angry gesture within the confines and relative privacy of our own cars. However, when this frustration gets out of hand, and turns against another driver, your raging behaviour can have dangerous consequences for yourself, your passengers, and for everyone on the road around you.

What is road rage?

Road rage is any episode in which one auto driver retaliates against another for a perceived offense. In some cases, this can be as simple as purposely cutting the other person off when making a lane change, or as complicated as racing each other down the road screaming abuses. The most violent of incidents tend to involve being stalked by an incensed driver and being attacked when stopped. In one appalling case in Sydney’s Western Suburbs in early 2012, a woman allegedly arranged a pre-meditated and violent attack on a person as ‘pay-back’ for a road rage incident.

Road rage has the potential to turn into more than just a moment of aggravation or a minor traffic incident and people at risk of serious road rage should get help.

Who engages in road rage?

According to a study published in Psychiatric News, perpetrators of road rage are very often themselves recent victims of similar inappropriate behaviour and were themselves distressed by the rage inflicted on them. The vast majority of drivers who engage in road rage then turn around and rage at someone else at some point further down the road.

Furthermore, a survey recently conducted by American insurance company, Responsive Insurance, suggests that approximately fifty percent of drivers who are subjected to road rage respond in an aggressive way, which of course then enhances the risk that the altercation will become more serious.

Studies suggest that men tend to engage more in road rage than women, and younger people tend to be more aggressive on the road than older people.

The causes of road rage

Most often the causes of road rage are personal stress, which is compounded by congested traffic or perceived bad driving, which then finds release against other drivers. Psychological stressors can include feeling stressed about work or family, feeling depressed or anxious, or simply feeling out of sorts. Often road rage is caused simply by one’s environmental circumstances – you might be running late for work or school, the roads might be congested, you might be caught off guard by a negligent driver, or the kids might be misbehaving in the back seat. All of these can lead you to lose control of your behaviour and engage in inappropriate behaviour or aggression on the road.

The above-mentioned studies also suggest that road rage may be caused by a person’s lack of capacity to stay calm in the face of road rage, and ignore bad behaviour. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Simple techniques to help you avoid road rage

If you think you may have a road rage problem, or you have recently experienced aggressive or agitated emotions whilst on the road, here are some simple tips and techniques to get you feeling calmer and staying safer on the road:

1. Maintain a calm attitude – don’t rush even if you are running late
2. Avoid competitive behaviour on the roads
3. Be courteous and patient with your fellow drivers
4. Use your indicators so that drivers around you are not surprised by your actions
5. Avoid tailgating – its annoying to other drivers as well as dangerous if you need to suddently stop
6. If you do get angry, avoid yelling out the window or making a visible gesture. These are reactions that risk escalation
7. If you make an error on the road, find a way to say sorry. This can often be achieved by a gentle wave of the hand or an apologetic nod of the head.

How can counselling help?

Road rage is really just a form of anger or anxiety, which manifests itself on the road and against other drivers. If you tend to get angered or feel aggressive whilst driving, you may need some anger management therapy. Seeking help from a qualified counsellor, therapist or psychologist can lessen the impact of road rage by teaching you basic anger management skills that you can utilise when you feel stressed or out of control on the road. (This article is electronically protected – Copyright © Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney PTY LTD)

Often people who experience severe angry responses on the road may well respond inappropriately to other situations or stressors at home or at work. If you think you might have an anger management problem, or if you simply need help staying calm in response to your environment, working with a psychologists or counsellor can help. You may find that in addition to learning to control your road rage, you might well begin to respond more calmly to people in all situations in your life.

Seeking help for road rage

If you or someone you care about struggles with controlling road rage or gets easily angered when driving, you or they could benefit from talking to a counsellor, psychologist or therapist.  If you would like to schedule a consultation or would like more information, please contact Associated Counselors & Psychologists Sydney.


Psychiatric News, Jan 16 2004, Vol 39 No 2,

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