Social Issues: Road Rage

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Driver giving others a finger of disrespect

Road Rage Raising the Finger of Disrespect



" The eyes of  enraged drivers glaze over and  minds enter a surreal world     as  the pressure of gridlock increases  and the phenomenon of  road rage     takes over."


The Best of  Intentions

The road to perdition is paved with good intentions. We promise ourselves we will be more patient in traffic  this year. Not drive as fast.  Leave earlier for work.  Allow ourselves more time.  Not allow ourselves to be hurried. Let the other driver go first.  Take more time, and relax. We won't become angry like we did before.

  Best laid plans go astray.  Being preoccupied, being too rushed, late,  and in a hurry because of poor planning  comes to mind, -especially  as holidays approach, vacation is tomorrow, or  Christmas season rolls around way too soon . Financial pressure.  The rush to spend money for a new boat,  a set of golf clubs, a new car. The big trip.  The expensive vacation.  Social pressure and the  instant gratification of   gifting traditions become a source of extreme stress and pressure.

Is it any wonder it does not feel  warm and fuzzy when streets are gridlocked,  the freeway is packed,  parking lots are jammed, and the lines at checkouts and gas stations are long? What is that little old lady doing, taking a vacation in the intersection?  What! Another student driver with an idiot for an instructor? Don't they know anything?

We discover we are still in a hurry.  Anger, smouldering anger is fanned.  Flames erupt. Rage. Fact is, if you are a driver,on the street in normal traffic, or gridlocked out on the freeway,  your frustration can take the form of road rage. You're ready to fight.

Insults and Threats

 There is literally no end to the variety of insults and threats drivers hurl at one another--even in parking lots.  How many times have you heard these insults?

"Get that pile of rust out of the way, stupid!

"Hey did you get your license from a popcorn box, you moron?" 

"Where did you learn to drive!"

"Get moving, you idiot, c'mon ,cmon!!"

"That's my parking spot, stupid, I was here first !"


Road Rage turns Physical --and even Deadly

Road rage is elevated quickly unless calm minds prevail.   Ignorant gestures are made.  Fingers are wagged, fists may be raised.  The finger of disrespect is raised.  Temperatures boil.  The eyes of  enraged drivers glaze over and minds enter a surreal world as  the pressure of gridlock increases, tempers flare  and the phenomenon of  road rage takes over.

Self-entitlement in the world of asphalt

Self-entitlement invades the daily grind in the highly competitive world of  freeway traffic and  asphalt, whether it is on the parking lot, or on the move.  The specifically perceived right to claim ownership of  the lane ahead at 70 miles per hour, or that convenient parking space closest to the office door in a rainstorm becomes a predominant and immediate problem.  The coveted space must be grabbed at any cost, if only a matter of pride. Competition, survival of the fittest, in competition for a mere parking spot,  if pursued without thought and kindness, becomes self-entitlement-- with intent to kill if necessary.

Road rage can be a declaration of war

Some drivers become angry enough to use their vehicles as weapons of assault, driving into other vehicles, inflicting as  much damage as possible with the rage of intent  or  pushing them out of the way. Other drivers, sufficiently insulted in perception or otherwise maddened,  may leave their vehicles in the middle of stalled traffic to attack an  'offending' driver and  vehicle  with  fists,  tire iron, baseball bat, or any other weapon handy.  They may shatter windows, kick in door panels,  or beat on vehicle roofs.  They may haul the driver out of his seat, violently assaulting him or her.   In the extreme which does happen upon occasion, enraged individuals may even escalate the action, choosing to wield a baseball bat, tire iron,  knife or firearms. Damage to vehicles, personal injury, even deaths can --and have occurred.  

Understanding how to avoid being part of the problem

The aggressive personality with anger management problems and a short fuse  does not magically become  calm, or  stable under the influence of gridlock on the freeway in sweltering summer heat. The impatient, angry  individual  habitually late for work  is unlikely to think kindly of anyone taking the last parking space on the lot.  Are you about to suffer from road rage?  Do you suffer from any of the following conditions? 

You may be headed for road rage if you:

  • Always have feelings of anger and do not know why
  • Have poor sleep habits and never get enough rest;
  • Are always in a hurry and plan your time poorly
  • Unrealistically  underestimate traffic and road conditions;
  • Are experiencing difficulty at work
  • Are suffering from financial pressure
  • Have relationship or family  problems
  • Hit the road preoccupied with news events that left you angry;
  • See others as annoying obstacles and  roadblocks instead of human beings
  • Carry a weapon in the car for 'self protection'.  

If you  see yourself in any of the above, there are steps you can take to minimize contributing to  road rage.  Before you go out on the road, you can:

  • Be honest with yourself and your companion, spouse and family  first and foremost. Recognition of a problem is the first step to a successful remedy, regardless of the type of problem you have.  Admitting such a problem exists is the second step.
  • Pursue family counseling if relationship issues are a mitigating factor
  • Seek professional anger management counseling if your anger is inexplicable,  explosive and characteristically involves violent actions, like striking out, or throwing objects around.
  • Plan your traveling time to work more realistically. Are there other routes less prone to grid lock?

When you are in a parking lot, out on the street in a gridlock, sweating profusely in heavy traffic or out on the open freeway, you can minimize the potential altercations  of road rage by:

  • Remembering that other drivers are in the same gridlock, the same repressive summer heat, under the same stress,  and are required to wait as long as you are to move on.
  • Remembering that impatient, risky passing of other vehicles with oncoming traffic is not beneficial but merely endangers all drivers involved.  Passing may  contribute a few seconds advantage in your trip but if oncoming traffic is heavy, lives are unnecessarily and foolishly put in jeopardy.
  • Honking your horn at the person ahead of you is unproductive and annoying. An annoyed driver may reciprocate, elevating tension.  
  • Avoid making obscene gestures at other drivers; doing so is taunting and may incite reprisal and violence regardless of excuses offered later.
  • Shouting obscenities is not only unproductive, it merely shows that you lack manners and consideration.

Is Road Rage Inevitable? 

No.  Road rage can be avoided.  Maturity, common sense and reason all go a long way in contributing to a reduction of  the harm to personal property,  potential  injury,  and even death where incidents of road rage occur.   Road rage is not necessary. Every effort to reduce the potential impact of  uncontrolled road rage should be consciously made by all drivers.   Practice the Golden Rule and always drive safely!

Is that Incoming I hear?

photo credit:  photo courtesy of



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