Driving Psychology (Psy 409a); September 30, 2006

There Is More Than One Way To Be An Aggressive Driver

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 84 to 108.


  1. Jekyll-Hyde Syndrome
    1. Perfectly friendly, courteous, and neighborly citizens switch personalities the moment the get behind the wheel

                                                              i.      They ego’s swell and the inner beast emerges, takes control, and dictates a radically changed outlook on their fellow drivers

    1. Every driver makes mistakes

                                                              i.      When we are put at risk because of these mistakes it is hard not to feel stressed and angered

1.      Anger plus self righteousness is the classic recipe for road rage

a.      Road rage is expresses differently by different people

                                                                                                                                      i.      They range from aggressive moralists, to those obsessed with defeating the clock, to the passive aggressive and the outright murderous


  1. Passive-Aggressive Road Rage
    1. Defined as a reactionary protest against feeling thwarted, coerced, mistreated, or repeatedly wronged

                                                              i.      Characterized by feelings of rancor and resentment against other drivers

    1. Expressed by ignoring others or by refusing to respond appropriately
    2. Their intent is to be an obstructionist and oppositional
    3. Usually considered inconsiderate

                                                              i.      Especially those who insist on maintaining the speed limit on the freeway in the fast lane

1.      They fail to respond when prompted to move over, they keep people out, and they act oblivious to their environment

    1. Putting on a bad mood to protest a passenger’s reaction is a form of this type of aggression

                                                              i.      Has long term consequences for physical and mental health

  1. Left Lane Bandit
    1. These are the people who insist on driving the speed limit (or below) in the left lane (the fast lane) of the freeway
    2. Can be motivated by contrariness, stubbornness, and even the perverse enjoyment of dominating others by forcing them to line up behind
    3. The most common complaint about them

                                                              i.      They insist on driving slower than what is considered normal for a given area

    1. Some say that they don’t mind getting out of your way but they fail to notice you until you flash them or tailgate them
    2. In some states you cannot call these people left lane bandits because the exits are on the left side of the freeway

                                                              i.      They are not trying to be inconsiderate

                                                            ii.      They must decelerate because of the highway design

    1. The best way to cope with these people

                                                              i.      Go around the blocking vehicle without tailgating, revving the engine, giving the look of disapproval, and without bad-mouthing the driver mentally or aloud


  1.  Verbal Road Rage
    1. Defined as the habit of constantly complaining about the traffic, keeping up a stream of mental or spoken attacks against other drivers, your passengers, law enforcement officials, road workers, pedestrians, speed limits, and even road signs
    2. Drivers have the tendency to talk to themselves about what is going on

                                                              i.      It is natural

    1. It is a form of short term relief

                                                              i.      It injures their self esteem and promotes and alienated culture of discontent


  1. Epic Road Rage
    1. Defined as the habit of fantasizing comic-book roles and extreme punitive measures against another driver

                                                              i.      Such as chasing, beating up, ramming, dragging, shooting, and killing

1.      Sometimes to the point of acting on it

    1. Is confrontational and combative, harsh and defiant, with righteous fury, seeking revenge and punishment

                                                              i.      Studies show that these feelings and responses are far more common than we would like to believe

    1. In many cases road rage leads to epic road rage
    2. For some drivers an epic road rage mentality can make driving into a fantasy ride and seem like a game
    3. Road rage legends suggests that road rage is mostly confined to men

                                                              i.      This is not true


  1. Automotive Vigilante
    1. Aggresses at other motorists, either chosen as random or for some specific reason

                                                              i.      Uses a constant stream of verbal abuse, offensive gestures, and threatening maneuvers with the vehicle, sometimes going to the extreme of physical violence

    1. When engaged in a dispute or confronted by an officer this type of person will deny responsibility and counterattack
    2. They often rationalize retaliation as something that is good for the general public

                                                              i.      They love to punish drivers in the name of law and order

1.      They see themselves as self-appointed officers

a.      Often as judge, jury, and executioner as well

    1. Their sense of righteousness and superiority ignites road rage


  1. Rushing Maniac
    1. Is one of the most common driving obsessions
    2. Its connection with road rage often goes unnoticed
    3. Has two complementary elements

                                                              i.      The need to avoid slowing down

                                                            ii.      The anger that build up against other drivers that force them to slow down

    1. They are perpetually anxious on the road
    2. They belittle themselves for being slow, being late, and being behind others while driving
    3. They get into the habit of lane hopping

                                                              i.      Always trying to figure out which lane is moving the fastest

    1. This mental attitude creates impulsive driving habits that are unpredictable and difficult for other drivers to read
    2. Running red lights and stop or yield signs are the most frequent causes of urban crashes
    3. They treat other motorists as obstacles and act as if they have more right than the other driver does
    4. Rushing does not actually save much time

                                                              i.      You have probably seen other drivers speed past you that you have also seen stopped at the next red light


  1. Aggressive Competitor
    1. Competition in America is often see as a good thing

                                                              i.      Competition on the road can be dangerous and even lethal

    1. Some drivers are so competitive that they need to be “in the lead” at all times

                                                              i.      They feel a sense of loss and rising anxiety if another car passes them

    1. Getting a parking space brings a sense of victory and superiority

                                                              i.      Missing one can leave a person with a sense of personal defeat

    1. Compulsive competitiveness is an ego-centered orientation

                                                              i.      It shreds everyone’s nerves

                                                            ii.      Provokes a simplistic game of winners and loser

1.      This contributes significantly to road rage


  1. Scofflaw
    1. A culture of cynicism

                                                              i.      It is the tendency we have to automatically disregard certain traffic laws, regulations, and signs

    1. Some drivers are compulsively rebellious

                                                              i.      A stop sign means reduce speed slightly

                                                            ii.      Yield means grab the opportunity when you can

                                                          iii.      Slow means reduce speed only if cops are around

                                                          iv.      A yellow light means hurry up and try to make it through

                                                            v.      Do not pass is really for the weak-hearted

                                                          vi.      35 MPH means go 55 MPH

    1. We assume that we are above the law
    2. Stopping at legal signs or even touching the breaks is commonly considered weak
    3. Every driver has a choice of orientation

                                                              i.      You can focus exclusively on yourself and do whatever you can get away with

1.      This is illegal, antisocial, and profoundly negative

                                                            ii.      You can see yourself as part of the community and do what is intelligent and safe for everyone

1.      This is appropriate, socially responsible, and positive


  1. Real-World Driving Tips
    1. Safety experts studying road rage breakouts and violent incidents between drivers have found a common pattern

                                                              i.      One driver is annoyed at another driver and shows it

1.      How the target driver responds will determine whether or not road rage occurs

a.      The target driver has the power either to fan the first driver’s angry flames or to help put them out

    1. Numerous Web sites offer driving tips

                                                              i.      Some of the tips give insight to the nation’s collective wisdom on how to handle aggressive drivers and avoid road rage

1.      Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver

2.      Do not take your eyes off of the road

3.      Consider the effect of your driving on others

4.      If you are followed, either drive to the nearest police station or call police dispatch at 911 on your cell phone

5.      If you are tempted to drive angrily, ask yourself: “Is it worth being killed?  Is it worth going to jail?”

6.      Keep away from erratic drivers

7.      Understand that you cannot control the traffic, only your reaction to it

8.      Stay cool – turn on your air conditioner

9.      Driving is transportation, not competition.  Want to compete?  Find a race track

10.  Never assume that an apparently aggressive act was intended

11.  Pretend other drivers are people that you know

12.  Take it easy; why drive yourself crazy?  Keep peace in the car and on the road

13.  Go with the flow, no matter how slow

14.  Do not slam on your breaks if a car is tailgating you

                                                            ii.      Few of us behave according to these principles, many of us regularly ignore them in our actions, and some of us defend aggressiveness, rejecting the collective wisdom on philosophical grounds

    1. Although we may feel helpless in the age of cynicism and afraid that human nature cannot change   it can

                                                              i.      We all have the ability to put the advice from the collective wisdom into practice

                                                            ii.      The tools of emotional intelligence are effective in addressing the entire range of aggressive driving and road rage

1.      We just need to learn the skills of emotional intelligence and put them into use


Related Links:

  1. Driving Tips


This website expands on the driving tips mentioned above.  Every week there is a rule posted.  This way you can you can learn a new tip weekly instead of trying to learn them all at once.  It has 70 rules posted – that is a lot more than is mentioned above.  So check it out and see how you can avoid aggressive drivers and road rage episodes.

  1. The American Driver


This website gives a list of different types of drivers.  It talks about the left lane bandits as well as the so called break slammers and many more.  It is quite interesting to see all the different names that have emerged for different types of drivers.

  1. Competitors and Aggressive Drivers


This website talks about how it is in mans nature to be competitive.  It talks about how there are many types of aggressive driving styles and what the typical aggressive driving behaviors are.  This website includes a survey on aggressive driving and give you some statistics from the survey.




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