a) Take a deep breath and continue driving?
b) Honk your horn once and continue driving?
c) Repeatedly honk your horn and tailgate the car?
If you answered “c,” then you have experienced one of the most serious dangers on today’s highways. Road rage may just start as an angry gesture or yelling, but it can quickly worsen into a confrontation, assault, or in some cases, even murder.
For instance, last March, a man in Macon County, Tennessee was charged for shooting another driver in what was called a “road rage incident.” According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the incident began when the other driver began following the man too closely, which angered him enough to fire a bullet at the other driver.
Road rage incidents like this are severe enough to be considered criminal offenses. However, a majority of road rage injuries are not caused by assault, but rather by car accidents due to reckless driving as a result of the anger. In fact, one report found that aggressive driving kills two to four times more people than drunk drivers.
Or consider this study by Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph.D., a psychology professor at ColoradoStateUniversity. Based on his findings, Deffenbacher asserts that there are two kinds of drivers: high-anger vs. low-anger.
While low-anger drivers tend use calming techniques when behind the wheel—turning on the radio, rethinking anger-provoking situations, driving defensively, etc.—high-anger drivers exhibit the following five traits:
- Engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. They are more likely to use hostile insults or convey disbelief at another driver, and may plan retaliation.
- Take more risks on the road. They are more risky behind the wheel before an incident, frequently driving over 10 miles over the speed limit, rapidly switching lanes, tailgating, or running traffic lights.
- Become angry faster and more often. For drivers who averaged the same amount of time and miles on the road, those who were high-anger displayed aggressive behaviors more than twice per day, whereas low-anger drivers were angry slightly less than once per day.
- Have more accidents. High-anger drivers have twice as many car accidents as low-anger drivers. They also report more speeding tickets and traffic citations.
- Experience more anxiety and impulsiveness. Drivers who are high-anger are more likely to get behind the wheel angry, whether due to stress at work or home. This anxiety leads to impulsive driving, such as speeding and running lights.
These studies, along with thousands of others, repeatedly show that one of the single most dangerous factors while driving is not what kind of car we have or a vehicle malfunctioning, but instead our emotions. A valuable lesson we can learn from this is that replacing agitation with relaxation when driving can be one of the best ways to prevent a car accident.
And of course, if you are the victim of road rage or aggressive driving, you need to call a car accident attorney to find out your legal rights to compensation.