How a Road Rage Incident Occurs
Decker M.A., L.P.
A road rage incident starts with anger, the emotion.
Anger is a fact of life. There is no way to avoid this
feeling at times; on the roadways and elsewhere in our
Anger is a normal and natural emotion that arises from
how we interpret the physical arousal from the "flight
or fight" stress response al human beings experience.
This stress response can be triggered in us whenever:
- We are startled
- We feel fearful, threatened or endangered
- We believe that things around us are "out of control"
- We feel insecurity, uncertainty or self-doubt
On the positive side, our anger can be a source of discovery.
It tells us that "something is going on" that
needs to be attended to. Especially related to driving,
anger is often experienced when we believe that:
- Our wants, needs or rights are not being addressed
- An injustice has been done to us or someone else
- Others are trying to dominate or control us
If we allow our anger to build and fester in the car,
it can lead to the destructive attitudes discussed below.
Cynicism, Hostility, Disgust, Contempt, Entitlement,
These are the attitudes that consist of:
- A negative mind set;
- A mistrust of other people and their motives; and
- A desire to control a person or situation or a desire
to get even or get revenge
This mind set leads to brooding about and focusing on
others' real or perceived injustices toward us and what
we need to do to remedy the situation. These attitudes
also lead to viewing the world (and our roadways) as unsafe
places and expecting other drivers to:
- Be incompetent and inadequate
- Be inconsiderate, unfair and untrustworthy
- Go out of their way to try to take advantage of us
or to "cross" us in some way
- Set up a situation where they deserve to be punished
or retaliated against by us
These attitudes promote the idea that we are "victims"
on the road and need to be:
- Constantly "on guard," hyper-vigilant, and
continually prepared to respond to others' provocative,
dangerous or irresponsible behavior
- Ready to defend ourselves and punish others
These attitudes are best represented by our negative
self-talk or rehearsal (what we say to ourselves / our
- "Move it or park it, grandma"
- "Keep pedaling, old man"
- "That young buck must think he's quite the
- "The light's not going to get any greener,
- "That jerk isn't going to get away with what
he just did"
- "What the hell is the matter wtih that turkey?"
- "I'm gonna get that 'SOB' for cutting me off"
- "OK, sucker, you've invaded my space; now it's
When we engage in negative thinking like this, we are
continually fueling our stress response and increasing
the intensity of and prolonging our anger about what has
just happened. If these attitudes become our way of
looking at the world when we are in the car, they then
contribute directly to the violation of another driver's
rights and boundaries through the behaviors discussed below.
Aggressive Driving Actions
Aggressive driving actions involve behaviors acted
out with the intent to "teach," hurt, punish,
intimidate, control and dominate other drivers. They
are used as means of getting the "last word"
in a driving duel, gaining revenge for the real or imagined
"wrongs" done to us, or getting our way in a
They exist on a continuum from:
...A single gesture, curse or facial expression
...To repeated exchanges of these actions
between two or more drivers, together with increased anger
and impaired judgment
...To actively harrassing and intervering
with the other driver through the use of behaviors like:
- Staring or glaring at another motorist
- Making a visible gesture or "flipping someone
- Honking our horn
- Flashing our bright lights
- Cutting someone off
- Blocking the passing lane by slowing down
- Speeding up to stop someone from passing us
- Tapping or slamming on our brakes
- Chasing or following another vehicle
- Swerving toward another car
These behaviors set the stage for an actual road rage
Road Rage Incident
(the eventual outcome)
A road rage incident occurs when aggressive driving
leads to extreme acts of aggressive behavior and attempts
to intentionally injure the other driver's vehicle or person
that lead to property damage or physical injury or death.
It represents the end result of an escalating sequence
of aggressive driving actions meted out from one driver
to another that literally takes on a life of its own.
- Pullling over to the side of the road to "talk"
to another driver and then ending up in a shoving match
or fist fight
- Forcing someone's car off the road
- Throwing a bottle or can at another car
- Bumping or ramming someone else's car with your vehicle
- Trying to run someone down
- Shooting at another car
© 1998 David J. Decker, MA, LP
Phone: 612-725-8402 or 651-646-4325 - www.ANGEResources.com