Road Rage: Anger Gone Too Far

By Paula Lorimer, Psychologist

We have all been there: just trying to get home or to our destination, and we are confronted with bad traffic conditions or inconsiderate drivers. We have all been cut off at some point or even cut someone else off. It’s normal to feel stressed sitting in traffic or mad after getting cut off. It’s not normal to get so angry you get out of your car or follow someone.

Last week, after getting cut off, a man followed an aggressive driver who had his family in the car, and blocked him in a cul-de-sac. Manuel Delisle got out of his car, started a chainsaw, and threatened the family. At the beginning of March, Marko Lubin ran over one man who got out of his car to confront him after incessantly honking his horn for being cut off. He also aggressed against the second man who got out of the car. What makes an otherwise rational person behave in such extreme, violent ways? Road Rage; anger gone too far.

Road Rage behaviour is defined as any aggressive and intentional behaviour while driving, including: rude gestures, insults, threats, tailgating, suddenly braking, cutting off, flashing lights/excessive horn use, following another driver, throwing things at a driver/car, getting out of the car to confront another person, or damage caused to another person or car. Emotionally, Road Rage is characterized by extreme anger. People who exhibit signs of road rage are most often being impulsive and irrational.

Extreme emotions can hijack us. When this happens we are no longer thinking clearly or rationally and can make poor decisions, such as getting out of our cars and confronting other drivers. When confronted emotionally, the other person responds emotionally and the situation can quickly get out of hand. You can’t control what other drivers do, but you can control your own emotions and actions. Here’s what to do if you become angry behind the wheel or experience road rage from another driver:

Stay in the Car

During an angry moment, if you get out our your car it becomes a threatening situation for both of you. Things can escalate quickly and people can make bad judgments. Most people, after they have calmed down and return to a rational state, wished they had remained in their car.

Don’t Even the Score

Often people who struggle with road rage feel an aggressive driving incident was a personal act against them, and feel the need to retaliate. “I’ll show them” is a common motto. Don’t honk or flash your lights to teach them a lesson. It’s not personal against you. There is no need or benefit to revenge or settling a perceived wrong done to you.

Don’t Be a Hero

If someone is driving aggressively, get out of the way. Pull into another lane or off to the side. Let them pass you, don’t chase or follow another driver. Doing so can make a bad situation worse, not better. If you can get the license plate do so. If you can manage to do so without endangering yourself or your passengers, inform the police of the details you have.

Stay Calm

If you, or another driver becomes angry at something on or off the road, the best thing you can do is to manage your own anger and stay calm. Getting hijacked by anger isn’t going to change the situation. Only by staying calm and rational will you make good decisions and stay safe on the road.

If you need additional support managing your anger, we can help. Give us a call today to find out about our effective Anger Management programs and reclaim control of your emotions, actions, and life…

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