Road rage is something that’s likely happened to the best of us.
Someone cuts us off and any chance of staying calm flies out the window. Experiencing road rage is also no better than being on the receiving end of it! Getting yelled at on the road is not only frustrating, but also dangerous since attention for both parties is now less focused on the road and more focused on the conflict at hand.
Needless to say, many of us have experienced road rage in some shape or form, but do we really understand it? More importantly, are most people aware of the consequences of losing our temper on the road?
We’re going to go through the causes of road rage, the costs and how you can deal with road rage both on the giving and receiving end.
Science-Backed Causes of Road Rage
Studies have not found a singular cause for road rage, but three qualities have been commonly identified as contributing factors:
- optimism bias,
- personal stress.
Swedish psychologist Ola Svenson found that nearly 9 in 10 Americans thought they were safer drivers than the typical drivers. Psychologists call this inflated sense of self “illusory superiority” and has been studied in various settings. One study on college professors found that 90 percent of faculty members considered them above-average.
This contributes to optimism bias that generally leads us to think we’re less likely to face difficult or uncomfortable situations. This enhanced optimism sets us up for a bigger letdown and potential road rage when we encounter less-than-ideal driving situations on the road.
The Undergraduate Journal of Baylor University found that we are more likely to ignore typical social standards that we’d normally follow when we feel anonymous. Studies found this in numerous settings in addition to driving.
The theory is that we allow ourselves to get angry with a stranger since we’re less likely to be held responsible for our actions.
Unsurprisingly, stress is a big contributor to road rage. Many studies have confirmed it in most cases and especially for serious cases of road rage. One study found that more than half of participants had a recent incident of road rage.
Costs of Road Rage
💸 Road rage puts many things in danger like your finances, your rights and the safety of yourself and others around you. Take a look at these different costs road rage can result in when you give in or are a victim of road rage, with your car or a rented card (which can causes even more economic losses, if you are not covered by additional insurance).
- Insurance Premiums and Policies: aggressive driving and road rage incidents may not be covered by your insurance policy. Allstate’s is an example of one of these policies since they do not cover “loss caused intentionally by or at the direction of an insured person”. Some car insurance companies may not renew your policy if your road rage resulted in a criminal offense (like reckless driving) or an accident.
- Criminal Charges: most states consider road rage as reckless driving misdemeanors. Consequences range from jail time, fines and points on your driving record.
- Accidents and Death: road rage can also lead to accidents and fatalities. Accident Analysis & Preventionfound that angry thoughts were “significantly related to aggressive driving, risky driving and crash-related events.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that two thirds of all driving fatalities are linked to aggressive driving.
How to Combat Your Own Road Rage
⚔️ Here are a few steps you can take to lessen your own road rage while you’re on the road and before.
- Have Empathy: having understanding can be difficult on the road, but taking a second to step back and consider others may be going through something and may just be having a bad day. At the very least, it can help mitigate some of your anger if you use empathy to combat your frustration.
- Increase Your Sleep: catching up on sleep helps keep your awareness high, lessens stress and helps you make smart decisions on the road. AAA found that missing as little as one to two hours of sleep makes your performance as a driver similar to someone with a 0.08 blood alcohol concentration level.
- Lower Your Stress Levels: getting into the car when you’re already stressed or upset increases your likelihood of road rage and puts everyone in danger. Taking a breather before getting behind the wheel can make a big difference. Taking steps to increase overall stress like seeking a therapist or identifying ways to destress can also help.
How to Combat Road Rage from Other Drivers
👉 Take these steps while on the road to stay safe when others are experiencing road rage.
- Refrain from Reacting or Escalating the Situation: Continue driving safely and defensively if someone begins yelling or otherwise being aggressive towards you.
- Drive Defensively: Stay aware of your surroundings and drive cautiously to prevent road rage inducing incidents.
- Call the Authorities: Contact the police if you don’t feel safe or the other driver puts you in an unsafe situation.
Take a look at this state of road rage infographic below from The Simple Dollar, that dives into the causes, costs and tips to combat road rage.
There are many other dangers to stay aware of on the road. It’s difficult to drive during bad weather if you’re not used to driving in that area. Driving gets especially complicated when driving a rental car since it creates more reasons to be careful and safe.
If you want to know you can stay practice good road safety habits, take a look at our list of rental car safety tips to learn more.