Most of us have had the experience of driving along, minding our own business, and being struck with sudden rage when another driver cuts us off.
Some of us respond with aggression; we might curse, make gestures, or even pursue the other vehicle.
Tailgating, honking unnecessarily, frequent lane changes, and speeding are all signs of aggressive driving.
When someone is driving aggressively, it is likely they will make someone angry.
This response has become so common to our society it even has its own name: road rage.
Road rage is a common phenomenon, but it is astounding that 66 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving (www.NHTSA.gov). Speeding, distracted driving and intoxicated drivers all contribute to the problem.
People often become so angry that they will act out, yell or turn three shades of red. Sometimes they engage in aggressive behavior toward others.
By the end of the day, however, they can rarely even remember the color of the car that made them so frustrated.
A logical response to road rage would be to turn our attention back to our own driving to make sure that we are focused and obeying traffic laws.
We can control our own behavior; we cannot control the behavior of a dangerous driver. If we notice an aggressive driver, it is best to back off and stay out of harm’s way.
Taking a deep breath, re-focusing on where you are going and why, and remembering that the incident will likely be forgotten by the end of the day can help to diffuse most cases of frustrated driving.
Then we can relax and resume normal functioning. This does happen for some of us, but not always.
More often than not, humans are emotional creatures who react to their internal mood states even in spite of logic and reason.
When people feel threatened, the most common responses are anger and fear.
When someone threatens safety or gets away with breaking a rule, it is reasonable to expect that any person might become angry and want to punish them.
For some people, this reaction hits them harder than for others. Some people let it go and move forward without looking back, and for them road rage is just a momentary flash of anger.
Then there are the people who cannot seem to let it go, or those that take aggressive action back, and who suffer the most from road rage.
They might also have anger issues in other areas of their lives, and might benefit from addressing anger in a therapeutic setting.
Alison Jedrick, MSW, LISW-CP, is an associate with Psychological & Counseling Associates of the Lowcountry, LLC in Bluffton.