Road Rage Hits The Headlines Again

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of road rage incidents caught on camera that have gone viral. Perhaps the most disturbing one was of a young lady, Siti Fairrah Ashykin, abusing an older gentleman, now known as Uncle Sim, for colliding with her car. In the viral video, Kiki, as she has become known, is heard demanding money and hurling racial abuse, and tops it all off by smashing Uncle Sim’s car with her steering lock.

Just a few days later, there was yet another viral video, this time of an army officer with a steering lock threatening another motorist. If you search for ‘Road Rage Video’ online, you will be inundated with video clips from all around the world, some of them showing acts of extreme violence.

You would be forgiven for thinking that road rage has always been with us, when in fact the phrase only entered the public lexicon in 1987, after it was used to describe a rash of highway shootings in Los Angeles, which was described as “Road Rage” by newscasters from the KTLA television station.

It appears that there are no meaningful statistics kept by any authority on road rage, but the American National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes that aggressive driving causes about a third of all crashes and about two-thirds of automobile fatalities. There are a number of studies out there on road rage though and it may surprise you that it is not just total jerks who are guilty of it, as Kiki proved to the world.

Road rage affects most drivers in various degrees at some stage – at best, an incident can leave a black cloud over your day or at worst, escalate into physical violence. But why does getting behind the wheel transform the meek and mild into raving, dangerous idiots? What causes road rage? The answer would appear to be quite simple, according to the Automobile Association of America (AAA). “Human beings are territorial …The car is an extension of this territory,” according to AAA.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have added to this theory; they believe that negative actions play out bigger than positive acts. “For instance in driving, if you are kind and let someone go in front of you, that driver may be considerate in response. But if you cut someone off, that person may react very aggressively, and this could escalate to road rage,” said University of Chicago’s Professor of Psychology, Boaz Keysar. “Small slights could escalate to unbelievable, irrational feuds.”

Some doctors are now saying that there’s even a psychological disorder thought to be behind extreme cases of road rage among some people: “intermittent explosive disorder”, which is “characterised by recurrent episodes of angry and potentially violent outbursts — seen in cases of road rage or spousal abuse,” wrote Ronald Kessler and colleagues of Harvard Medical School.

Intermittent explosive disorder “has been found to be much more common than previously thought,” Kessler and colleagues wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2006. “Depending upon how broadly it is defined, this disorder affects as many as 7.3% of adults or 16 million Americans, in their lifetimes.”

Attacks resulting from the disorder “are out of proportion to the social stressors triggering them” and aren’t related to other mental disorders, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. “People with this disorder overreact to situations with uncontrollable rage, feel a sense of relief during the angry outburst, and then feel remorseful about their actions,” Kessler and colleagues wrote.

To avoid road rage, read our Ten Tips to Avoid Road Rage and always remember it is better to arrive late than to be DEAD on time!


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