Road Rage

“A patient arrived in the office for his psychotherapy appointment. He was visibly agitated, and when I asked him what happened, he reported the following incident: He was driving out of his development. To arrive at my office, it required that he make a left turn onto a highway, not an easy task. He has to cross the south lanes to turn left onto the northern lanes in the office’s direction. Turning left means turning onto the left northern lane and crossing into the right lane. The driver must look carefully that no cars are coming in either direction. My patient, noticing a car coming in the left northerly lane but judging that it was distant enough for him to turn, safely executed the turn and shifted right. Once in the right lane, the other car driver starts loudly honking at him. Unnerved by the blaring sound of the horn, turned his head to see what was happening. He noticed that the car driver was angry and repeatedly gestured at him. “It looked as though he was a raving, spitting, and cursing lunatic,” in his words. Feeling both provoked and angry, he felt tempted to pull over and have a confrontation to “teach that guy a lesson.” Thinking better of it, he allowed the whole incident to pass, except he could not shake his angry feelings or revenge fantasies. He reported he felt rattled, incensed, nervous, and wanted to fight and even pull a gun on that guy. Fortunately, he has no gun and doesn’t know how to use one.

It’s a familiar scene. A person starts the day with a fight with your wife, or your boss gives you a warning, or on the way to work or back home, there is a traffic jam that tries your patience. Under these and similar types of circumstances, you feel frustrated and angry. You could quickly explode if just one more thing happens. Then, one more thing happens when another car weaves in and out of lanes, and you get even angrier.

For too many people, all this pent-up emotion expresses when driving. There is a name for it, Road Rage. It is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents and violent confrontations between angry drivers. Of course, for some people, this has less to do with circumstances and more to do with the fact that they are angry people, always seething and always ready to explode. Whatever may be the factors that enrage one driver, the outward expression of this rage sometimes provokes the ire of another driver who feels he must protect his male ego from humiliation. Of course, drivers tend to blame the other drivers for anything that happens but never themselves.

Road rage can have dire consequences. If there are family and friends in the car, an angry confrontation can be highly embarrassing. Among these are sometimes deadly traffic accidents and fights with others who may even pull a gun and receive a citation from the police. In many states, three or more citations can lead to suspension of the driver’s license and spending an afternoon in jail. In other cases, all of this drama can cause a lawsuit with significant financial damages awarded to the other drivers.

How can these scenarios be prevented? One strategy for those with anger problems is to interrupt their thoughts and ask themselves two things: first, everyone must concentrate on their driving and not the other person. In addition, everyone needs to remind themselves that whatever happens on the road is not personal. 

1) Is it worth it to get out of the car or take some other dangerous action and 

2) What are the consequences of taking action?

If you lose control of yourself in these incidents, it’s essential to seek professional help. Learning to control one’s behavior is essential to a functioning civilization. People should not and must not give in to their impulses.

Help is available. Contact Dr. Schwartz at.