Road Rage. Anyone who’s attempted to traverse the Cross Bronx Expressway at the wrong time, or have been subject to midtown Manhattan’s rush hour traffic crunch, is bound to know the feeling. Most New Yorkers have experienced some form of road rage- either personally or secondhand. Maybe you’ve felt a mild form of it at some point on your daily commute, or have been subject to vicarious road rage, trapped in the back of a yellow cab. What’s usually nothing more than a minor frustration can sometimes become more violent, and more serious. In fact, the origin of the term “road rage” was a direct result of an outburst of freeway shootings which took place in Los Angeles in the late 1980s.
It’s easy to get upset, when other drivers seem to be purposefully obfuscating your trip home or to work, or when construction detours or special events lead to sharp increases in traffic congestion. But when that frustration begins to manifest itself in violence, it becomes a potential safety hazard for motorists, which is problematic for everyone.
The cities with the most road rage are: Miami, Phoenix, New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston. Many of our readers will not be surprised to see New York included on this list. Together, though, we can work to reduce the frequency with which road rage ends in violence. What follows is a brief and incomplete history of road rage incidents, as well as road rage statistics and road rage prevention techniques. Hopefully, by informing our readers of the causes, and ramifications, of road violence, we can help avoid dangerous road rage-related situations in the future.
Road Rage in Michigan
Earlier in the week, a road rage incident in Detroit turned ugly when a traffic dispute ended in gunfire. Evidently, the driver of a pick-up truck became angry for an undisclosed reason and chose to react by throwing a drink at another vehicle. The driver of this other vehicle was 36-year-old India McDougal.
According to the testimony of the man, he exited his vehicle in order to confront McDougal about her reckless driving. Their argument intensified, but eventually the man got back into his car. As McDougal pulled off, the man threw a soft drink at her vehicle. That’s when she stopped, and opened fire.
McDougal, who is licensed to carry a concealed-weapon, also called 911 after the incident, admitting that she discharged her weapon. Admission or not, it is illegal to use a weapon in this fashion. (Her story differed, however, in that she claimed the soft drink was thrown into her face.) McDougal was charged with assault with intent to commit murder and using a firearm during a felony. The man, whose name has not been released, was charged with a misdemeanor.
This story is a clear example about how disagreements on the road can quickly spiral out of control. People are very protective of their vehicles, and traffic jams can be very stressful. Sometimes, gridlock can cause people to miss important events, which can translate into tempers being lost. We cannot stress enough how important it is to keep everything in perspective, and to realize that almost no missed meeting is worth losing your cool over. Overreacting violently can land you in jail which, to say the least, is more of an inconvenience than any time spent in traffic. We implore our readers to practice safe and peaceful driving habits, and we ask that you attempt to avoid inciting road rage incidents while also trying your best to diffuse any situations you might encounter. If everyone does their best to quell vehicular rage, the roads will become a safer place for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.
More Road Rage Incidents
Sadly, this Detroit episode isn’t the only time road rage has ended in violence this year. Earlier this summer, and a little closer to home, a New Jersey man was beaten and stabbed during a traffic altercation. The worst part? It all took place in front of his family, who looked on from inside the car, horrified and paralyzed with fear.
After witnessing an Acura, with New York license plates and tinted windows, dart aggressively through traffic, a 39-year old Toms River resident decided to take action. Having caught up to the speeding Acura at an intersection farther down the road, the eventual victim exchanged words with the car’s driver.
This enraged the occupants of the Acura. Two men and one woman exited the car, and confronted the victim, who had also exited his vehicle. The group of three, all said to be in their early 20s, proceeded to beat the man down to the ground before stabbing him in the arms, chest, and lower back.
The assault took place at the intersection of Route 88 and Barb Lane.
Fortunately, the victim received quick and effective treatment. He was released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. However, his story should serve as warning to those contemplating engaging aggressive drivers: sometimes it is better to deescalate the situation, and use negotiation tactics instead of responding to reckless driving with argumentativeness. Alternatively, you can always call the police in lieu of taking matters into your own hands.
Road Rage Statistics
It’s hard to definitively qualify a vehicular accident as road rage-related. However, it has been said that 66% of traffic fatalities involve aggressive driving in some form.
Here are some more road rage-related statistics.
- Illustrating that road rage and aggressive driving are difficult concepts to clearly define, only 14% of drivers felt that driving 10MPH over the speed limit was “extremely dangerous.” Most police officers would sternly disagree with this assessment.
- More than 90% of people commute to work. No one likes to be late to work, and the fear of getting fired due to lateness can definitely lead to feelings of anxiety and anger among drivers caught in traffic.
- The figure above represents an increase in commuter traffic. According to the AAA, an increase in the amount of drivers on the road directly correlates to a rise in instances of road rage. According to AAA estimations, the United States of America experiences a 7% annual increase in road rage occurrences.
- 56% of men and 44% of women have admitted to having feelings of road rage at some point in their lives.
- 50% of drivers who are confronted by aggressive driving respond with aggressive behavior of their own. This means that most hostile horn honks, gestures, and driving practices are seen reciprocated by the drivers subjected to these behaviors.
- Perhaps the reason why most drivers react so poorly to instances of road rage is represented best by the following figure from a recent survey, which showed that 60% of all drivers view aggressive driving behaviors, including speeding, as a direct threat to their own safety and the safety of their family members.
- 30% of surveyed drivers, in fact, felt that their personal safety had been jeopardized on the road within the previous month.
- Males under the age of 19 are the most likely demographic to exhibit symptoms of road rage.
- Aggressive drivers are more likely to exhibit other dangerous driving habits, such as drinking and driving, and driving without wearing a seatbelt.
- A firearm is involved in an alarming 37% of aggressive driving incidents.
- 2% of drivers have even admitted to trying to run an aggressor off the road!
- Up to 1,500 people each year are killed in road rage-related incidents.
- Most drivers are aware of the road rage epidemic, and are in favor of trying to eliminate incidents of aggressive behavior. 98% of drivers believe that it’s important to reduce the frequency with which motorists speed and drive recklessly.
- Though only 32% of drivers believe a public awareness campaign, warning against the dangers of road rage, would be effective in decreasing the likelihood of rage-related incidents. So another tactic may have to be employed.
Examples of Road Rage
Road rage is not an officially recognized mental disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. However, “intermittent explosive disorder,” which is known as IED, is a disorder known to directly contribute to behavior associated with road rage.
Likewise, it’s difficult for police officers and other judicial forces to discipline drivers for exhibiting “road rage.” Many times, if a cop believes a driver has been displaying road rage-like behavior, they can charge them with similar offenses, such as reckless or careless driving. These offenses are punishable by law, and often result in fines.
Road rage presents itself in many different ways.
What follows are some of the more common forms of road rage.
- Antagonistic use of horns, overuse or flashing of lights.
- Screaming, shouting, or cursing.
- Some drivers use their vehicles themselves as the instrument with which they exhibit rage. Following other vehicles extremely closely, abruptly braking and/or accelerating, or exhibiting other more general aggressive driving behaviors can all be characterized as road rage.
- In fact, there have been even more extreme instances of this type of road rage. Bumping or purposefully ramming other vehicles are even more dangerous examples.
- Singling out and aggressively pursuing another vehicle, in a stalking matter, is a form of road rage.
- Exiting your vehicle to assault another driver, cyclist, or pedestrian is also categorized as road rage.
- A more mild (and common) form of road rage is performing rude and/or offensive gestures towards other motorists or pedestrians.
- As we read about earlier in the Michigan incident, throwing a projectile at another vehicle is considered road rage.
- Purposefully damaging another vehicle in any way, including striking a vehicle with a blunt weapon, is an act of road rage.
- Brandishing weapons at other drivers, or at pedestrians, is road rage. This could mean weapons typically used to inflict harm, such as guns and knives, or it could be tools you might expect to find in the average car, such as tire irons or wrenches.
Basically, any sort of violent or aggressive behavior that occurs on a road, or involves a car, could be considered an act of road rage.
How to Avoid Road Rage
If you are confronted by an enraged driver and you believe the situation may result in violence, there are steps you can take to try and diffuse the situation.
Here are some tips on not only how to diffuse situations, but how to avoid them in the first place.
- Importantly, obey the rules of the road. Many road rage incidents are sparked by one driver flagrantly ignoring the rules. Besides being dangerous, this can enrage your fellow motorists.
- Change lanes if you are being tailgated. Fast-moving drivers may get frustrated if their path is impeded by slower drivers. Instead of adding to the frustration, simply let them pass.
- Sometimes, a simple conciliatory hand gesture can go a long way. A basic wave, nod, or apologetic gesture can help soothe the tensions in heated situations.
- To help with your own feelings of road rage, always plan ahead. Know your route, and give yourself ample time to reach your destination. Missing exits and making wrong turns can be upsetting. When you’re running late, you’re more likely to become frustrated with other drivers when traffic jams occur.
- Try not to lean too heavily on your horn. Overuse of the horn can agitate other drivers.
- Take a defensive driving course. Most courses teach techniques that will help limit feelings of road rage and will instruct you on how to avoid situations that are prone to rage and aggression.
Perhaps the most important advice for road rage prevention we can give is to always obey the golden rule. Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself. When you’re behind the wheel, don’t engage in behavior that would upset you if you saw it performed by another driver.