For a long time, we have heard the term "road rage". Chances are you have been on the receiving end of "road rage", or maybe you are someone that has expressed some type of "road rage" or aggressive driving. AAA reports that aggressive driving and road rage are increasing and is one of the top concerns of drivers today.
Aggressive driving is a term for dangerous on-the-road behaviors that emerged around the 1990's. It refers to behaviors such as:
- Following too closely
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Weaving through traffic
- Running stop lights and signs
Aggressive driving can also escalate into behaviors such as:
- gesturing in anger
- yelling at another motorist
- physical assault and even murder.
"Road Rage" is the label that refers to the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme end of the aggressive driving continuum. An important distinction is that aggressive driving is considered to be a traffic violation, while road rage, not including yelling and gesticulating, is considered a criminal offense. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
What Do The Experts Think?
What are the underlying reasons of this rise in aggressive and dysfunctional behavior on the road? Experts have various opinions. (source: The Growing Problem of Road Rage By Charles Montaldo)
Sociologists: suggest it is due to the breakdown in our society's sense of community and a disintegration of shared values.
Psychologists: blame the intoxicating combination of power and anonymity provided by motor vehicles.
Traffic engineers: believe the problem is due to inconsistent driving speeds among travelers.
Traffic Congestion: This is sited as a frequent cause. Drivers who have a low tolerances for traffic delays might react by following too closely, changing lanes frequently, or becoming angry at anyone who impedes their progress.
Running Late: People are stressed because they have too much to do and are running late for work, school, their next meeting, lesson, soccer game, or other appointment. Drivers often "justify" their speeding because they are running late.
Anonymity: Drivers can feel detached when insulated within the privacy of a vehicle. Tinted windows facilitate the misconception of being an observer of the surroundings, rather than a participant. Being anonymous can "release" individuals to behave in antisocial ways, because they don't feel accountable for their actions. This combined with power of a vehicle can result in extreme rudeness. It can turn a "nice" person into a dangerous "rager".
Disregard for Others and for the Law: The erosion of societal values and respect for authority has been the subject of studies and news stories. Suggested causes for this problem are: the fragmentation of the extended family, increased individual mobility, media influence, and other characteristics of modern society. This trend is reflected in the expression of narcissistic traits and the common phrase, "I'm just looking out for number one."
Habitual Or Clinical Behavior: By far, most motorists rarely or never drive aggressively. For a minority, there are frequent episodes of aggressive driving, and for a small group, aggressive driving style is the norm. Occasional episodes of aggressive driving might occur in response to specific situations, such as speeding and changing lanes abruptly when late for an important appointment, when it is not the driver's normal behavior. And for some, it can even be an expression of illness or pathology.
Something to remember is that it is not the anger that is experienced by drivers that is of concern, but what they do with that anger.
Recently, the newscasts have aired stories about a different kind of "rage". This situation involves "Air Rage" which is a term that refers to airline passengers exhibiting aggressive and disruptive behaviors. Some say that "Air Rage" is the new Road Rage. In the last two weeks, three flights have had to be diverted due to fights about reclining seats. Other recent expressions of "Air Rage" include a passenger who were arrested for punching a sleeping passenger and another who beat up an airline employee.
What are the reasons behind the increased incidents of air travel belligerence and even violence? Psychologists have suggestions on causes: (source: Air Rage: Why Does Flying Make People So Crazy? Leah Ginsberg)
1. Air travel security restricts personal freedoms making people feel vulnerable, so they act out. People can be very
sensitive to being controlled and might become afraid or angry.
2. People have "personal space" and airlines offer very little of it, so people are willing to fight for it. American culture has a
norm expectation of about 3 ft of personal space (or an arm's length). Maintaining this boundary on a plane is virtually
impossible. Coach seats are often less than 1.5 feet wide causing passengers to invade each others space. Pushing
boundaries is a good way to upset people and airline practices of putting more seats on planes and flying planes at full
capacity make air travel more uncomfortable and stressful. Recent arguments on planes have involve "the reclining
seat" where the person in front reclines their seat, causing "problems" for the passenger directly behind. A new device,
called Knee Defender will prevent the seat in front of a passenger from engaging in recline. This device was a trigger for
an inflight argument. The passenger in front wants to exercise their "right" to recline the seat they paid for, and the
passenger in back is trying to prevent the reclining seat from invading his "space" that he has paid for.
3. Being overloaded and overwhelmed. Too much to think about stresses us out, which leads to a short fuse. Having too
many responsibilities to deal with at once is one of the top causes of stress. Multitasking is not really that efficient and
creates an overload on individuals. Traveling is a stressful experience with worries about getting there on time, coping
with airport security and invasion of personal space, dealing with luggage, schedule delays, catching connector flights,
managing carry on luggage etc.
4. Some people drink or take medication when flying. Doing so can help people relax and may help manage anxieties, but
it can also result in more impulsive behavior.
5. Many travelers experience anxiety while flying, putting them on edge and less able to cope with stress. Adding
medication or alcohol can make matters worse.
6. Some travelers are belligerent and in a bad mood. This attitude can be contagious and create conflict in a social
situation. An "emotional contagion" can can have a cascading effect, and cause everyone to pile on when someone
starts something. One or two incidents and become many.
What To Do About Road Rage?
Edmunds.com has 10 tips to prevent road rage:
1. Be rested- inadequate sleep can cause irritability
2. Plan ahead - being disorganized and running late can cause speeding and impatience.
3. Don't use your car to blow off steam -Your car is not an extension of yourself.
4. Don't listen to aggressive music - Aggressive music can prompt aggressive behavior. Listen to music that is calming.
5. Keep relaxed behind the wheel - Take rest brakes, if you find yourself tense, relax your muscles and breathe.
6. It's not about you - Do not take behaviors of other drivers personally.
7. Hostility is not healthy - Falling into habits of anger and stress has negative health consequences as well as exposing
you to conflict and retaliation with other drivers. Is it really worth it?
8. Practice good etiquette - Don't let detachment and anonymity of being in a car cause you to act out.
9. Self Assess - take a look at your driving habits and practices. Are you behaving aggressively? Self awareness can
help you curb negative behaviors.
10. Develop the habit of practicing kindness. - Don't be an emotional contagion. Modeling kindness can reap kindness in
What To Do About Air Rage?
Below is a brief summary of flying etiquette suggestions from Wikihow.com. Their article has excellent advice for airplane etiquette with great advice to consider. Please consider going to their link (below) to see more to help you have a better air travel experience.
1. Carry your bag in front of you and low to the ground as you walk down the aisle in search of your seat. - you don't want
to be whacking other seated passengers.
2. Utilize the overhead space above your own seat row. - Don't even think about putting your bags in the overhead storage
near the front of the plane.
3. Keep your chair upright at least until you are told it can be reclined. - When you do recline, do it slowly so you don't
bump the passenger behind you or knock something over on their tray. Be courteous and keep your seat upright during
meals and drink servings and until things are cleaned up. Remember that reclining hyour seat for your comfort can be at
the expense of the person behind you.
4. Avoid grabbing the back of the seat in front of you.
5. Respect personal space.
6. Avoid hogging the aisle.
7. Be considerate of other passengers when you exit the plane.
Happy traveling, and remember to breathe!