A few weeks ago, an Oklahoma man tried to change lanes in front of what he reports as “the wrong person.” Filled with anger, the driver got up on his bumper, attempting to prevent the man from changing lanes. After the failed attempt to pass our driver up in the center turn lane, the rager side-swiped the man, causing scratches and dents in his rental car, and injuries to the unsuspecting man.
Road rage is a serious condition that can make driving in stressful situations incredibly dangerous. According to HealthDay, “at least 1,500 people are injured or killed in road rage incidents each year.” I once heard that just like bad weather, stupid drivers are just part of roadway conditions. But, besides the unavoidable stupid drivers, what causes road rage, and what can we do to make roads safe and stress-free?
Behind the wheel, where people have their own space and visibility of others in vehicles is limited, there’s a sense of anonymity and safety that makes them feel like taking risks at the expense of others just isn’t that high. So, when driving gets stressful, people are more likely to display obscene gesturing or other anger signals commonly associated with initial stages of road rage, than if they were dealing with others face-to-face.
Sure, I get a little heated in stand-still traffic when people are trying to cut me off—at least as cranky as the next person. But where’s the line between being frustrated and putting the lives of fellow drivers in danger with road rage? HealthDay also reported that “people who experience road rage so violent that it leads to an assault against another driver, passenger, or car may be suffering from ‘intermittent explosive disorder’ (IED)”. Apparently, 16 million Americans are said to be suffering from the disorder, while only 28.8 percent of those have been diagnosed.
According to the AAA foundation report, the majority of aggressive drivers are relatively young, poorly educated men, aged 16-26, who have a history of crime or violence and who also have problems with drugs or alcohol. The AAA report also noted that a number of road rage cases occur when these drivers are experiencing an emotional crisis, such as losing a job or girlfriend, going through a divorce, or suffering from an injury or illness.
So, clearly road rage can be extremely dangerous. But did you know it can also pull some serious cash when it comes to your insurance rates? Esurance explains:
“Because your car insurance rate is partly determined by your driving history, a road-rage incident, when it shows up on your record as a criminal offense, is a serious red flag. Insurers may charge more for the policy to cover the added risk posed by a driver with any kind of criminal driving history.”
There you have it, folks. If not for the safety of yourself and everyone else on the roads, keep calm for the sake of your premium. So, what are some ways we can stay happy on a stressful commute? HealthDay tells us:
- Listen to music or books on tape while you drive.
- Don’t have unreasonable expectations about how long it will take you to get somewhere. Give yourself plenty of time, and try to plan your route to avoid major congestion.
- Consider changing your schedule to avoid the worst traffic.
- Before going somewhere, check to make sure you have water, a window cloth, and sunglasses accessible.
- Don’t get into your car when you are angry or overtired. If you’re upset about something, take a few minutes to wind down before hitting the road.
- If you’re taking a long trip, get out and stretch your legs when you take a break.
- Try to relax and make yourself comfortable when stuck in traffic. Roll down the windows or turn up the air conditioning, unclench your teeth, and breathe deeply. Finally, relax your grip on the steering wheel.
- If it’s out of your control, just resign yourself to being late.
- Use public transportation! If it’s available where you live, why not relax and read a book on the bus, train, or streetcar instead of fighting traffic?