Driving Psychology (Psy409a); September 18, 2006

Aggression: Used to Dominate

By: Kasey Vanderhoof


Instructions for this activity are found at:


Instructor: Dr. Leon James



Leon James and Diane Nahl (2000). Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering

Clear of Highway Warfare. (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books). Reviewing pages 32

To 45.


  1. The Expanding Age of Rage
    1. The culture of disrespect is broadening

                                                               i.      No longer is rage and aggressiveness limited to the road but are now apart of other aspects of life as well

1.      For example, there is this thing termed desk rage

a.       People are so stressed out at work that fights begin in the workplace between coworkers

2.      There is also this thing called surf rage (as well as many other types of rage)

a.       Surfing used to be considered a carefree and peaceful way of life but now many models of surfboards are considered deadly weapons, according to the Open Waves Act

    1. Rage problems vary, but violence remains the typical response


  1. The Anger Choice
    1. Anger is the main method people use to negotiate dominance levels
    2. Expressing anger in not a triggered response but a learned habit
    3. Although anger may be automatic, it does not automatically lead to aggressiveness
    4. Aggressiveness on the road is a way to dominate other drivers

                                                               i.      For instance, it dominates someone who is seen as deserving punishment for inconviencing us, for getting in our way, having placed us in danger because they did something stupid, simply not caring, etc.

    1. Venting has actually been found to be a bad thing as opposed to the familiar belief that venting is a good thing

                                                               i.      Venting increases stress and depresses the immune system functioning

    1. Anger is thought to be triggered automatically, but this is just an illusion

                                                               i.      This triggering stimulus is just the sudden realization of physical endangerment


  1. George Washington’s Rules of Civility
    1. Rule #1 applies to the world of traffic: “Every action done to another driver ought to be done with some sign of respect.” (P37)
    2. Rule #22 has a moral implication for character development: “Shew not yourself glad at the misfortune of another though he were your enemy.” (P37)

                                                               i.      This is the basis of supportive driving

                                                             ii.      It emphasizes compassion, tolerances, and wisdom

    1. Here are some other rules:

                                                               i.      Do not show signs of anger when interacting with others (rule #45)

                                                             ii.      Do not use insulting language (rule #49)

                                                            iii.      “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called your driving conscience.” (Rule #110) (P37)

1.      All of these rules apply to the road as well as to everyday life

a.       They are a way to achieve greatness and by following them, they may even save lives due to having less aggression on the road and in life

  1. Developing Emotional Literacy
    1. Most people hold the belief about themselves that they are excellent drivers

                                                               i.      Because of this others are unable to tell them otherwise

    1. Without emotional literacy people will not recognize aggressiveness and will not feel responsible for all of the mayhem
    2. It is thought that aggressive driving may be a phase that all drivers go through

                                                               i.      Even if this is the case, society cannot survive if antisocial driving continues unchecked

    1. Law enforcement is an external management system and is unable to exert an inner influence

                                                               i.      It is up to the safety experts and drivers education specialists to teach people the inner tools needed to develop compassion on the roads


  1. Protecting Yourself From Aggressive Drivers
    1. Here is some typical advice from a safety organization[1]

                                                               i.      Do not make obscene gestures

                                                             ii.      Use your horn sparingly

                                                            iii.      Don’t block the passing lane

                                                           iv.      Don’t switch lanes without signaling

                                                             v.      Avoid blocking the right had turn lane

                                                           vi.      Do not tailgate

                                                          vii.      It you travel slowly, pull over and allow traffic to pass

                                                        viii.      Avoid unnecessary use to high-beam lights

                                                           ix.      Don’t let the car phone distract you

                                                             x.      Don’t stop in the road to talk with a pedestrian or other driver

                                                           xi.      Don’t inflict loud music on neighboring cars

                                                          xii.      Assume other drivers’ mistakes are not personal

                                                        xiii.      Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn’t

                                                        xiv.      Avoid all conflict if possible.  If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and get out of the way

                                                         xv.      Reduce your stress: Allow plenty of time for the trip; listen to soothing music

    1. The main goal of a driver is to say in control of the car and the situation

                                                               i.      Aggressive driving violates these goals

1.      It contributes to more crashes between cars and duel between drivers

    1. “Society needs to see the driving game as a harmful cultural practice that requires a psychosocial solution.  Driving psychology provides the tools needed to curb aggression in driving.” (P43)


Related Links:

  1. Rules of Civility


This website expands on George Washington’s Rules of Civility.  It not only gives you the rules that I mentioned above but also shares some of his other

rules as well. 

  1. How to Avoid Aggressive Driving


This website gives you clues as to how to avoid aggressive driving.  It lists some of the advice given above but    also expands on other ideas as well.

It is a great website for you to learn how to avoid someone who may be an aggressive driver.

  1. We Are All Aggressive


This website explains how all people have an aggressive side.  You could meet the nicest person in the world and they too will be aggressive at some

point or another.  No one can completely avoid be aggressive or angry at sometime or another, it is apart of human nature.  




My homepage: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leon/409af2006/vanderhoof/vanderhoof-home.htm

Class Homepage: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy25/classhome-g25.htm





[1] I got this list of advice directly from the book cited above.  I found this information on page 39.