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The psychology of road rage; MIND OVER MATTER.


WHETHER you have seen red yourself or observed it in a fellow driver, most of us have experienced road rage in one way or another.

From honking horns and offensive gestures to tailgating and physical violence, road rage can lead to a number of aggressive behaviours that put all road users at risk.

Our susceptibility to road rage is influenced by lots of different factors. Environmental stressors such as being late, being stuck in traffic, being tired, hot or hungry can make road rage more likely. Furthermore, the increased anonymity we experience in a car, the sense of control we get and the limitations on how we can communicate with other drivers all play a role.

Interestingly, the way we interpret other people's behaviours can also make us much more vulnerable to road rage. Say, for example, another driver cuts in front of you without indicating.

How you perceive the situation will likely influence how you feel about this. Personalisation ("they did that on purpose to annoy me!"), catastrophising ("he could've killed me!"), overgeneralising ("the roads are full of terrible drivers!") and placing demands on reality ("people should be more careful!") are common examples of unhelpful thinking styles that can increase feelings of anger.

Feeling angry while driving isn't dangerous in itself, but the behaviours it can trigger can be.

A recent study highlighted the link between road rage and potentially dangerous behaviours including aggressive and risky driving and an increase in driving errors. Higher levels of anger also predicted the number of car accidents.

Another study found that a driver's sense of being in control also predicted aggressive driving behaviour. The combination of road rage and the perception of being in control is a dangerous one indeed.

An angry person who believes they're in control perceives less risk and is more willing to take risks while actually being at greater risk of harming themselves and others around them.

Research has shown, for example, that an individual's ability to concentrate, make accurate judgments and effective decisions are all impaired by anger.

For more information about road safety and tips for reducing road rage visit the website for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents at | Dr Ellie Milby is a counselling psychologist


Getting angry behind the wheel is dangerous for everyone

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 24, 2018
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