- Road rage is fairly common, but sometimes it can get out of control, as evidenced by the death of a 24-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran following an altercation with another motorist
- Without treatment, road rage can also spill over into other aspects of your life, according to experts
- Here are a few ways to get your road rage under control
Last weekend, 24-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran Cody Harter drove to his parents’ Missouri home to borrow a mower, ABC News reported. On his way home, he hit traffic and got in an argument with another driver. The conflict intensified, and the other motorist allegedly stabbed Harter to death.
This sad story is just one of the latest examples of a road rage incident turned fatal. As defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road rage is “the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property," such as intentionally striking another vehicle or actually being violent towards another motorist.
Road rage is a fairly widespread phenomenon: nearly 80 percent of drivers have reported experiencing aggression or road rage at one point or another, and eight million drivers had taken it a step further by purposefully hitting other vehicles or confronting drivers, according to a poll conducted by AAA in 2016. But it can have devastating consequences.
“There’s a lot of evidence that some people feel pretty grounded in other social situations — friends, family, work — but somehow when they get in the car, there’s this Jekyll and Hyde transformation,” says Nemerovski. “I think there’s something about the act of driving that allows some anger to come forward for people who wouldn't normally see themselves as angry.”
A dangerous trend
A dangerous trend
Nemerovski, who was inspired to study road rage after he got in an altercation with a driver who threatened him with a baseball bat, says that in many ways, road rage is no different than other forms of anger. But there’s an important distinction: the relative anonymity of being behind the wheel empowers drivers to behave more aggressively, recklessly, or boldly than they otherwise would.
“I think there’s something about the act of driving that allows some anger to come forward for people who wouldn't normally see themselves as angry," he says.
"Somehow, when they get in the car, there’s this Jekyll and Hyde transformation."
Occasionally, when road rage gets out of control, it can have devastating consequences: earlier this year, for instance, a 16-year-old boy died from a fatal gunshot wound in Albuquerque resulting from a road rage incident. Such incidents are on the rise: the most recent road rage data from the NHTSA tallied fatal crashes and deaths resulting from road rage and aggressive driving accidents, and the number of crashes jumped from 302 in 2012 to 465 in 2016. Additionally, the Trace reported last year that road rage incidents involving guns had more than doubled from 2014 to 2016.
“People that engage in road rage have anger that leaks over to other parts of their life,” Dr. Steve Albrecht, a Colorado Springs-based threat assessment expert, told MensHealth.com. “If you don’t get treatment you’re going to keep replicating the behavior.”
How to get your road rage under control
Fortunately, there are ways to actively curb your road rage.
1) Adjust the expectations for your commute.
If you frequently find yourself angry at unexpected traffic delays or at other motorists for slowing you down, perhaps you should wake up 15 minutes earlier to allow for extra drive time.
Nemerovski also suggests taking a survey of the car environment. What’s on the radio? Things like political talk radio or intense music could spike stress levels. Instead, Nemerovski recommends an audiobook, a stress ball, deep breathing, or mindfulness practices to help tether you to a less emotional state. Just being conscious of your own stress can help prevent an escalation. “Think about how you're feeling when you sit down in the driver’s seat,” Nemerovski says. “You’re carrying a lot of that pent-up anger and tension and a lot of that isn’t to our awareness and you get into the car and your stress level is already high.”
2) Think about how you react.
While you can’t predict when someone will cut you off, you can train your reactions. Whether you’re a yeller, horn-slammer, or tailgater, these physical manifestations of anger all stem from sensing a breach of territory. “People use the vehicle, either intentionally or mindlessly, to punish or communicate to another driver that they feel violated,” Nemerovski explains. “That’s the key message that anger gives us: We feel physically threatened, we feel like something's been taken away from us.”
Instead of lashing out, try to slow the anger down. Identifying why you’re upset in the first place can help your internal reasoning and future actions, remain purposeful and not impulsive. (Think: “This person cut me off and that’s why I’m pissed. Let me diffuse,” rather than “I’m annoyed so I’ll tailgate this guy to show him what’s up.”)
This will help lessen the likelihood of engaging with other drivers, which could escalate to accidents or fights off the road, which have major consequences. “I’m a fan of tinted windows,” Albrecht says. “Don’t make eye contact if you don’t have to. Focus on your driving, don’t look over and make faces.”
“Think about how you feel when you sit down in the driver’s seat. You’re carrying pent-up anger and tension."
3) Be community-minded.
People are, by nature, selfish drivers. We’re thinking about where we have to go and the fastest way to get there. But here’s a radical thought: if we changed perspectives to be more sympathetic of other drivers’ situations — maybe they’re late for a flight, have a family emergency — we’d be a little more forgiving, and not as quick to yell a few profanities. “The perspective-taking makes people more human, more a part of the community,” says Nemerovski. “When you denigrate other people, you’re making them much different than you and you're making their life less valuable than yours.”
Of course, if the behavior is dangerous, Albrecht says to continue driving, to take the next exit or altering your route, and calling the authorities or the “How’s my driving” number if it’s a company vehicle.
4) Focus on your own driving.
Don’t be the guy who pinalls back and forth between lanes. Use your signals, avoid tailgating, and don’t text and drive. Basically, don’t feel entitled to do what you want just because you’re in a rush. If there’s one thing you can control, it’s your own driving, says Albrecht: “Let other people be and do your thing.”
5) Get help.
If you struggle with road rage, chances are you struggle with controlling your anger in other areas of life as well. If you'd like to find a health care provider or support group in your area, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) provides a listing of a wide range of mental health services and support groups at little to no cost.
This article originally appeared on www.menshealth.com
This article originally appeared on www.menshealth.com