What causes road rage?

What causes road rage

What is it about being strapped in a cocoon of steel and glass that changes the way we act in civilized society?

If you saw a long bank line would you go to the front and push the old lady who was second in line out of the way? “Sorry, I am in a hurry and my time is more valuable than yours…”You wouldn’t because it’s wrong and you would likely get a punch in the face for your efforts. Turn that bank line into a line of cars waiting patiently in a merge lane and you will see at least one person speed up the middle lane and try and cut into the front of the line.

So is it the anonymity afforded by not having to deal with the immediate repercussions of your impatience? With the bank line metaphor you would immediately have to deal with the consequences of your actions, but in a car, you can simply drive away and forget about it.

Looking at it from the perspective the aggrieved, what is it about being in a vehicle that turns a normally pleasant person into a hateful, racist and rage filled psychopath? If you are like me and you are blatantly cut off (or mildly inconvenienced by missing a light), you will instantly begin questioning that person’s ability to dress themselves, let alone operate a motor vehicle. Or more accurately turn the air blue with obscenities and invitations for that person to procreate with themselves repeatedly.

After all you likely wouldn’t scream at someone for accidentally bumping into you at the grocery store. But if that same person backs into your new ride in the parking lot, the gloves are coming off.

So what causes all the anger and hate? There are several major culprits:

  • Heavy traffic or gridlock
  • Construction delays or detours
  • Distracted driving
  • Slow driving
  • Tailgating
  • Erratic or unsafe lane changes

There are probably many more reasons but we feel they all can be boiled down into two major causes: overcrowding and impatience.

There have been studies performed where rats are confined together and can co-exist peacefully. Until you add one too many rats and they all turn on each other. The same is true for humans, know how frustrated you feel when you crest a hill on the highway and see nothing but gridlock in front of you? It’s because you know you will not be able to get where you want to go, as fast as you want to get there. You will then look for ways to get through the traffic faster, and cut someone off who is feeling the same as you. Throw in heat, exhaustion, stress from other parts of your life and the conditions are perfect for road rage.

Overcrowding isn’t something you can control, aside from choosing where you live. If you do live in close proximity to thousands or even millions of other people, you have to have some degree of patience to keep from going mental on the road. Lack of patience is a leading cause of road rage and by default accidents and injuries.

We expect drivers to have below a certain level of alcohol in their system in order to reduce the number of accidents. What if we expected a certain level of patience in order to drive as well? What if there was a way to measure patience? Could you imagine a police officer administering a road side patience test and confiscating someone’s license until they bring their patience levels back up?

That may seem extreme but remember at one time there was no limit to the amount of alcohol you could consume before operating a vehicle.

IMT personnel and other professional commercial drivers are held to a higher standard than the average motorist and patience is a requirement for the job. After all you would quickly lose your mind if you were naturally an impatient person.

At IMT, drivers are put through a stringent selection process that includes a personality test in addition to the standard road test. Drivers must be calm and collected throughout each stage of a shipment. This way they are able to control their environment by yielding to an impatient driver or begin slowing down long before a hazard materializes ahead of them.

In the meantime, while we work on our patience meter (instead of a breathalyzer the officer makes you solve a rubix cube on the side of the road), stay safe and stay patient.

What causes road rage?