Psychology 409a - February 6, 2006
The Reality of Road Rage and its Universal Nature
By Aaron Reich

Leon James and Diane Nahl (2000). Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare. (Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books) pp 15-32

Instructions for this activity are found at:
Instructor: Dr. Leon James

Outline for First Half of Chapter 1

I. Road Rage is a Reality

  • Far from being just media hype or a popular catch phrase, road rage or aggressive driving has become a common occurance in the daily lives of drivers all across the world. The global reach of aggressive driving will be discussed further in the second concept of this outline.
  • In 1996 the American media began to write stories about highway violence and the phrase "road rage" quickly escalated to the status of a household name. Ten years later in 2006, nearly all drivers have not only heard of road rage, but have also experienced it. Many drivers in modern times have also exhibited road rage behaviors themselves. Many drivers who are unfamiliar with the topic of aggressive driving exhibit road rage behaviors and think nothing of it, believing that road rage is only the most extreme cases of highway violence.
  • There is no agreed upon definition for road rage, however, it has come to define an extreme state of anger that often precipitates aggressive behavior, which can range from words and gestures to assault and battery. Incidents of road rage have been increasing in recent years due to numerous factors, including traffic congestion, feeling endangered, being insulted, frustration, time pressure, fatigue, competitiveness, and lapses in attention. I believe that as the modern world becomes more aggressive in the realm of business and the roadways become more crowded, drivers are behaving more aggressively to cope. Thus, it is a learned behavior and most drivers behave aggressively because it helps them to achieve their goals on the road, namely, getting to where they want to be on time.
  • Pressure to be on time is a primary cause of aggressive driving. If nobody was in a hurry, there would be far less incidents of road rage. This does not justify aggressive driving, but it does help to explain why it occurs. This pressure to be on time combines with other factors, such as pride and competitiveness, and the result is aggressive driving. Aggressive driving can and does result in incidents of road rage.
  • Some journalists have tried to claim that road rage is just media hype. That is, the more it is spoken about in the media, the more people see it happening. As more people see it happening, the media reports it more, and the cycle repeats itself once again. Perhaps it is true that with increased media coverage people are noticing road rage more, however, this does not prove that the media alone has caused road rage to increase. There are many factors that have contributed to the increase of road rage.
  • It is a fact that aggressive drivers kill two to four times more people than drunk drivers.
  • II. Road Rage is Universal

  • The text reports road rage events occuring in numerous countries all over the world, including Slovenia, the Philippines, New Zealand, Canada, Greece, Thailand, India,
  • Survey in New Zealand shows that 64% feel that aggressive driving has increased in recent years.
  • Road rage and aggressive driving are worldwide pheonomena rooted in cultural idealogy. So then, what is the cause of this mentality?
  • The society of the world has gradually become more aggressive and violent in numerous facets of life. It seems people are just less civil than they used to be. In sports, poor conduct like yelling and kicking trashcans has become popular. Professional wrestling and ultimate fighting are some of the top-rated shows on television, both depict serious violence and aggression.
  • In the U.S. there are 1,200 reported acts of road rage assault and battery. The majority of road rage does not get reported. The two symptoms that define road rage are: 1) the feeling of rage accompanied by mental violence, and 2) the desire to punish and retaliate.
  • People learn to live with hostility and aggressiveness on the roads, and across the world has come to be a culture of mutual disrespect. Little incidents are easy to ignore and are accepted as normal by the masses. Many drivers have a deprecating attitude about the intelligence, motives, and the capacity of other drivers.
  • The road rage epidemic reflects larger societal problems of disrespect and violence that are prevalent throughout the world. Society as a whole needs to find more constructive ways to resolve disputes and differences.
  • III. Related Links

    1. - Road Rage: Media Hype or Serious Road Safety Issue? - This is a very informative article that suggests getting rid of the term road rage all together because it promotes acceptance of violence on the road. Having a popular phrase like road rage makes it acceptable, and serious issues of violence on the road are overlooked and written off as simply "road rage." With this type of language and thinking, people can say, "Oh, that's just road rage. No big deal."

    2. 'Road Rage' is Merely Media Mayhem - This article is referenced in the pages covered by the outline, and I thought it would be useful to link the actual article here. As the book explains, this article expresses the viewpoint that road rage is not a reality, but rather, aggressive driving is only being noticed more because the media is talking about it more.

    3. The Simpsons' Road Rage - This is a link to the homepage of a new video game titled The Simpsons' Road Rage. The opening page of this web site exclaims in big lettering, "Go on a road rage with the Simpsons!" In the text there has been talk of video games depicting road rage scenerios, and it was amazing to find this game advertising it so explicitly.

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