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Road Rage: Strategies for Staying Calm and Safe Behind the Wheel

Incidents of angry and aggressive driving, often referred to as "road rage," are becoming more and more commonplace in everyday driving. Many people can benefit from being aware of their anger while driving to help manage driving anger and aggression.

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If you get angry while driving you might not consider that your behaviour would be considered as road rage.  Read below to see if maybe sometimes you could use some strategies to change you thoughts or behaviours on the road.

What is Road Rage?

Road rage is a term used to describe aggressive or angry behaviour exhibited by drivers. These behaviours can include honking, tailgating, cutting off other drivers, making obscene gestures, and even engaging in physical confrontations. Here are some typical examples:

  • Running Late: A woman, late for a meeting, honks and illegally passes a slower driver, glaring and calling him an "idiot" as she passes.
  • Highway Confrontation: Two men exchange angry words and obscene gestures after one cuts off the other, leading to a suggestion to pull over and fight.
  • Traffic Frustration: A businessman, delayed by road construction, fumes with anger and shakes his head in disgust at the workers as he passes.

These examples highlight how easily frustration on the road can escalate into aggressive behaviour.

The Rise of Road Rage

With more drivers on the road but limited capacity, moments of anger and frustration are inevitable. Driving behaviours such as tailgating, cutting off others, and making obscene gestures are becoming more common.

Understanding the Risk Factors

Aggressive driving behaviour often occurs under conditions of anonymity when drivers feel less visible to others. Research has examined several factors contributing to this behaviour:

  • General Stress: Drivers who find driving stressful are more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour.
  • Age: Younger drivers (ages 16-25) tend to display riskier driving behaviours, including speeding, tailgating, and traffic violations.

Effective Interventions

Cognitive-behavioural interventions have been shown to help manage driving anger. Strategies include progressive relaxation, relaxation imagery, and breathing-cued relaxation and cognitive restructuring to address cognitive distortions and biases while driving

Changing Anger-Inducing Beliefs

Five common beliefs that can fuel road rage and some suggestions for modifying them:

  1. "Make good time": Viewing driving as a race against time can create frustration. Instead, consider driving a valuable and enjoyable activity.
  2. "Be number one": Viewing driving as a competition can lead to aggressive behaviour. Think of driving as a cooperative effort to keep roads safe.
  3. "Try and make me": Resisting other drivers out of passive-aggression can escalate anger. Accept that sometimes giving way is the better choice.
  4. "They shouldn't allow it": Expecting all drivers to meet personal standards is unrealistic. Recognise that different drivers have different skills and reasons for their actions.
  5. "Teach them a lesson": Seeking to punish other drivers can lead to dangerous situations. Focus on your own driving and let go of the need to correct others.

Adopting Healthier Perspectives

Here are some practical ways to shift these harmful beliefs:

  • Enjoy the Journey: Instead of rushing, appreciate the time spent driving.
  • Cooperate, Don’t Compete: Aim for a harmonious road environment.
  • Control Yourself, Not Others: Accept that you can't control other drivers.
  • Stay Calm: Avoid hyper-vigilance about other drivers' habits.
  • Assume the Best: Consider that other drivers might have good reasons for their actions.


Road rage is a significant public health and mental health concern. By understanding the risk factors and adopting healthier perspectives on driving, we can reduce incidents of road rage and create a safer driving environment for everyone. If you find yourself struggling with driving anger, consider seek professional help to manage your stress and adopt more positive driving habits. Remember, the way we drive not only affects us but also sets an example for our children and other passengers. Safe driving!

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