Behind the wheel of a car, emotions can escalate quickly. Whether it is due to traffic, stress or personal issues, drivers sometimes experience intense feelings that can cloud judgment and impair decision-making.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that approximately 1/3 of all traffic accidents happen because of road rage. Road rage, a term that describes aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by drivers, often stems from such heightened emotions. But how does road rage translate to a higher risk of car accidents?
When anger flares up during driving, rational thinking often takes a back seat. Road rage can lead to a series of impulsive actions on the road. Speeding, tailgating or swerving between lanes without signaling can not only startle other drivers but also drastically reduce the reaction time needed to avoid collisions.
The intensity of emotions during road rage means that your focus diverts from the primary task at hand: driving safely. Yelling, gesturing or even just fuming over a perceived slight can pull your attention away from the road. A momentary lapse in concentration can result in a failure to notice important changes in the driving environment, leading to potential accidents.
In some instances, road rage can escalate to drivers using their vehicles as tools of intimidation. This behavior includes actions like brake-checking, where a driver suddenly slams on the brakes to scare the driver behind them, or boxing in another car to limit its movement. Such tactics can surprise other drivers, causing them to make sudden, unplanned maneuvers that increase the risk of accidents.
Road rage often fuels a sense of competition or the need to assert dominance on the road. This mentality can lead to increased risk-taking, like trying to beat a yellow light, overtaking in unsafe conditions or not yielding the right of way. Such decisions put both the aggressive driver and others on the road in jeopardy.
The path to safer driving
If you find yourself feeling agitated or aggressive while driving, use techniques to calm yourself. Deep breathing, listening to soothing music or even pulling over to take a break can help diffuse anger. Remember, the primary goal while driving is to reach your destination safely, not to win a battle on the road.