Psychology 409a - February 13, 2006
Road Rage Personalities and Styles
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 84-96

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

Chapter 4: The Road Rage Spectrum (first half)

I. Road Rage Personalities

  • The Jekyll-Hyde Syndrome is one road rage personality that is characterized by otherwise ordinary, friendly, courteous people who abruptly switch personalities when they get behind a wheel. This style is known as the Jekyll-Hyde Syndrome because its dynamic is similar to the classic story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In a driving situation, these people who are usually polite and courteous law-abiding citizens have ego-inflations and a radically changed outlook on their fellow man.
  • Passive-Aggressive road rage is another road rage personality described in the text. It is defined as a reactionary protest against feeling thwarted, coerced, mistreated, or repeatedly wronged, characterized by feelings of rancor and resentment against other drivers. Passive aggressive road rage behavior is expressed by ignoring others or refusing to respond appropriately. The intent of these drivers is to be obstructionalist and oppositional. This is a dangerous behavior because the other driver that is being blocked or prevented from doing something could be looking for a fight or a murderous person.
  • Left-lane bandits are another type of road rage personality. These people get enjoyment from making other drivers line up behind them in the left lane (the faster lane). The intelligent thing to do when travelling in the last lane and another driver comes up fast behind you is to move over and let them go ahead. These left-lane bandits are motivated by contrariness, stubborness, and the enjoyment of dominating others on the road. The best way to deal with these kinds of road ragers is to pass them in the open lane without showing any signs of anger or aggression.
  • II. Styles of Road Rage

  • Verbal road rage is one of the two styles that will be discussed in this outline. It is defined as the habit of constantly complaining about the traffic, keeping up a stream of mental or spoken attacks against drivers, passengers, law enforcement officials, road workers, pedestrians, speed limits, and road signs. It is the most common form of road rage and its purpose is to denounce and ridicule other drivers. Verbal road rage is habitual and reflects and underlying habit of reasoning and reacting emotionally. Some drivers maintain a stream of negative thoughts about other drivers and express it vocally. This style of road rage seldom works to increase goals and instead increases emotional strife.
  • Epic road rage is the other style that will be discussed now in this outline. It is defined by the text as the hait of fantasizing comic-book roles and extreme punitive measures against another driver, such as chasing, beating up, ramming, dragging, shooting, and killing, and sometimes to the point of acting on it. Epic aggression is confrontational and combative, harsh and defiant, with righteous fury, seeking revenge and punishment. These feelings are very common for drivers. The artificial isolation of driving creates a psychological condition that can foster irrational thoughts, feelings of paranoia and insane impulses. This is the most imaginative and dangerous styles of road rage because the driver loses touch with reality and is consumed by fantasies of violence and retaliation.
  • III. Related Links

    1. Road Rage and Driving Style Test - This website contains a self-test for users to gain insight into their driving styles and potential for road rage. I believe this link is useful because it allows students and interested persons to determine their potential for being aggressive drivers, a good first step in the lifelong struggle to become a supportive driver.

    2. Road Rage American Style - This link provides an article that gives advice to drivers (in particular, motorcycle drivers) for avoiding road rage. I chose this link because it is closely related to the topic of this outline and it explains very practical advice for readers for avoiding dangerous situations on the road.

    3. Road Rage - Insights - This website shares advice and insights about road rage. The site is a wealth of psychological advice and methods of coping with a variety of psychological problems. Road rage is considered a psychological problem and is spoken about as such on this site. It is far from professional research on driving psychology; however, it does offer some practical insights that I believe are helpful.

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