Road Rage, Part II

In addition to “road rage” being a new label used to describe an old problem, there are countless inconsistent, contradictory, and inaccurate definitions of “road rage” in the research literature—many of which confuse the terms “road rage” and “aggressive driving”—a fact that prompted the authors of several prominent literature reviews to argue for the complete elimination of the term “road rage.”

The construct most often used in scientific literature to encompass dangerous driving behavior is “aggressive driving.” However, this term—like road rage—has come to mean many things in the literature. For example, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as, “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.”

Such a definition is too general and by definition includes acts that may be due to: accidental lapses and errors (e.g., equipment errors, dozing off, poor judgment of distance when passing, etc.); inattention and inconsideration (e.g., texting or talking on a mobile phone, using a GPS system, eating, shaving, etc.); sensation-seeking, entitlement or competitiveness (e.g., speeding to “make good time,” tail-gating, passing, running red lights, failing to yield, etc.); or retaliation or self-compensation (e.g., unsafe passing and tailgating, verbal and physical gestures, assault, etc.) for other drivers’ offensive driving behavior.

Other definitions of aggressive driving impose a dizzying array of dichotomies, such as acts that do or do not involve intent to harm; are legal or illegal; are meant to cause either emotional or physical harm; are within the driver’s awareness or not; or are emotionally provoked (e.g., anger) or instrumental in nature (e.g., competition, sensation seeking, etc.). Thus the term “aggressive driving” has come to encompass “just about any crash-producing driver action or inaction.” The present study will focus on “driving anger,” an intense emotional response to the offensive roadway behavior of others and the gateway to potentially hazardous retaliatory and self-compensating aggressive driving.

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