Road rage affects an estimated 45% of drivers in the UK and is responsible for around 12% of car accidents each year. Aggressive driving, shouting and all out fist fighting are all too common on the roads these days, making national news in some cases.
Research has shown that angry drivers are more likely to take risks such as speeding, rapidly switching lanes, tailgating and jumping red lights. This in turn leads to other people getting road rage, because well over three quarters of drivers get angry at other drivers driving badly or recklessly. It forms a vicious cycle that can soon lead to violence and injury. 50% of people who encounter aggressive driving behaviour respond in kind.
What causes road rage?
Many factors can cause road rage. The majority of road rage occurring in drivers is as a result of other people driving badly or aggressively. But it isn’t just about bad driving…
4 common causes of road rage
- Crowded lanes
- Driver behaviour
- Driver perception
Personal issues, work-related stress and general frustration can all add to becoming distracted at the wheel and developing road rage.
Crowding also seems to lead to road rage. This is demonstrated in two ways. Firstly, psychological studies on animals and humans and secondly, surveys in the UK suggest that city driving is the most stressful and thus, the most likely situation in which road rage will occur.
A study on monkeys at Emory University’s Yerkes Regional Primate Research Centre in Atlanta USA found that monkeys in crowded situations actually adopted a functional set of behavioural changes to control the risk of aggression. But with humans in cars, it’s different…
Research shows that drivers can easily dehumanise other drivers and pedestrians in ways they wouldn’t when interacting in person. This means that we don’t see other drivers as people and fail to empathise with them in the same way in a queue of traffic as we would in a queue at the supermarket. This makes it easier for us to abandon acceptable behaviour and get angry at other drivers.
Drivers are also more aggressive to those they deem to be of lower status. More aggressive behaviour occurs in drivers who consider themselves more important. We judge other drivers simply on the style or age of their car and act accordingly. Big cars outrank small cars, expensive cars are better than cheap cars and so on. Many drivers do it without thinking and the reason is their perception of themselves.
Aside from the fact that we always think we can see everything when we’re driving (we can’t!), a driver’s perception of themselves is right at the core of road rage. 80-90% of drivers believe they have above-average driving skill. False confidence increases ego and if you think you’re the most important driver on the road, frustration at other cars will eventually get the better of you.
In any situation involving a near miss or an example of bad driving we are more likely to attribute a mistake by another driver to ability but our own errors as something situational. Other drivers “need to learn to drive!”, while we know that “this crossing is always dangerous”.
How can I prevent road rage?
The best way to avoid suffering from road rage is to take a more open-minded view of your fellow drivers. But this isn’t always easy. Here are a few tips for preventing road rage:
6 ways to avoid road rage
- Change lanes if you’re the victim of an aggressive driver
- Apologise freely, whether it is your fault or not
- Plan your journey
- Find reasons to enjoy your drive
- Avoid using your horn
- Drive safely
If you see an aggressive driver coming, don’t get caught up in their road rage. Change lanes, pull over or find some means of removing yourself from an aggressive situation. Engaging can make other drivers’ road rage worse and cause you to get angry too.
Just like physically removing yourself from the situation, you can emotionally remove yourself by simply mouthing an apology or holding up an apologetic hand. Resist the natural urge to defend yourself if you are accused of bad driving, simply apologise and move on. Don’t let your pride be rattled by someone who has clearly lost all rationality at the wheel.
Plan your journey
Leave early to avoid the stress of rushing and check traffic reports to try and avoid traffic jams and other potential problems. Many sat navs have functionality to detour your route in the event of heavy traffic, so make the most of your assets and plan effectively.
Enjoy your drive
When things start to get stressful, put on some of your favourite music, or find some positivity in why you’re in this stressful situation in the first place. You might be driving to visit a loved one, or taking a holiday. Remind yourself that it’ll all be better soon.
Avoid using your horn
Some people use their horn or their lights as way to urge people on or announce that they are giving way. The trouble with this is that these gestures, particularly use of the horn, can come off as ambiguous and potentially aggressive. If you don’t appear to be an angry driver, you’re less likely to cause other drivers to become angry themselves.
Drive in a safe and intelligent way. Leave plenty of space between other cars, drive at the right speed and indicate your intentions clearly – just like your driving instructor taught you! Bad driving is one of the most common triggers for other drivers to suffer road rage. If you are a bad driver, you should be exercising greater caution on the road in the first place.
Road rage causes accidents, stresses you out and makes other drivers feel just as bad. As car enthusiasts, we should be making our roads a more enjoyable place to drive for everyone.