The Age of Rage: Psychology of Rage in Public Places -- Driving

Darwin and Aggressive Driving

Oral Report: February 12, 2001

Presented by Linda Ure

Text: Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare, by Dr. Leon James & Dr. Diane Nahl, New York: Prometheus Books. 2000.

The Anger Choice

According to Darwin's theory, human aggression is like animal aggression, triggered as a response to attack or threat (p. 35). However, threat perceived by humans is not always met with anger or aggression. The mediating processes: judgement and choice, allows for interruptions of any automatic connection between threat and aggression. Rather learned behavior directs us to the appropriateness to express aggressiveness. Modification of learned behaviors restore choice in possible threatening situations.

Enforcing dominance over a stranger is a learned plan of behavior. Recall the schoolyard bully and the new kid in town; the bully is any person who hurts, frightens, or tyrannizes over those who are smaller or weaker. A bully threatens and hurts others because he can-because it's fun, exciting, and makes the bully "feel" more present, here, alive, in control. This learned plan of behavior is superimposed over other drivers and pedestrians when the bully perceives a threat, real or not, to their integrity of dominance.

The bully-mind-set of the society wish to be excused for their behaviors with the popular myth that venting anger is healthy. This perpetuates the model. However, anger actually kills. We have a more developed cortical brain than animals and we can make choices as to the appropriateness of retaliation.

Developing Emotional Literacy:

If Driver's Education was taught to all drivers a sense of team work to orchestrate the daily commute could result, a sense of "social organization of traffic" akin to a community (p. 38).

The shift from "aggressive driver" to "supportive driver" comes only through developing a consciously benevolent feeling, supporting community values over individualistic desires. Communities are like teams. Not to win, but to cooperate to achieve a task. Learning to be a team player incorporates a greater self-awareness and has a direct relationship to the community of other drivers-at-large.

Protecting yourself from Aggressive Drivers:

Remembering that your driver mind-set is individually owned and operated, it is good to know how to avoid most situations of aggressive driving (p. 39). A list of typical advice from a traffic safety organization, while a good list, I think, could be rearranged and in a more positive form of less DON'TS:

1. Reduce your stress: Allow plenty of time for your trip.

2. Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn't.

3. Assume other drivers' mistakes are not personal.

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

5. Refrain from tailgating.

6. Refrain from use of your car phone, except in emergencies

7. Refrain from using your horn.

8. Refrain from using obscene gestures.

9. Refrain from blocking the passing lane.

10. Refrain from blocking the right-hand turn lane.

11. Refrain from switching lanes without signaling

12. Refrain from unnecessary use of high-beam headlights.

13. Refrain from inflicting loud music on neighboring cars.

14. If you travel slowly, pull over and allow traffic to pass.

15. Don't stop in the road to talk to a pedestrian or another driver.

Begin with yourself, be a good neighbor in traffic, pay attention to your driving habits.

Although most drivers blame the "unsafe driver" a cause of crashes, aggressive drivers typically blame other drivers [not themselves](P. 47). Driving an automobile is a necessity of life in the 21st century, our infrastructure, where we live and where we work require it. However, driving is a privilege, not a right. Driver Education, testing and re-testing may become the norm rather than the exception.

While I took the various tests contained in the lesson pages this week, and I scored very low in aggressiveness (which is good), I also found I don't consider driving a "game."

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