It’s 7:46, and you’re running late for work. You’re caffeine-deprived and working on six hours of sleep. Your hair is still damp from the shower, and you’re trying to balance a travel mug of coffee in your hands while changing the station on the radio. There’s a crisis at work, again, and it’s waiting for you to be solved when you get to your destination. You’re merging onto the highway, and suddenly, a car cuts you off on the left, coming from nowhere at 78 miles per hour. You, a mature, responsible person, respond the only way that seems appropriate, with a slur of curse words and a laying on of the horn.
Everyone has given in to road rage at some point in their driving careers. What is it about the cushion of the car that turns considerate people into passive-aggressors bent on revenge? It could be that the vehicle provides us with a sense of anonymity that allows us to feel safe expressing our frustration.
Drivers tend to view their vehicles as an extension of themselves. We choose the make and design we want, we decorate them according to our own personalities, we fill them with the miscellanea that make up our day to day lives. When someone cuts us off on the road, we feel that they are wronging us, not our cars. However, unlike when someone acts aggressively toward us in real life, we have an extra 4,000 pounds we can use to assert our dominance. That feeling of power can cause a sense of competition on the road, encouraging drivers to try to maintain control.
If driving a two-ton weapon on wheels wasn’t enough to make us act a little more aggressively than usual, there is also the added factor of anonymity. We feel camouflaged by our vehicles and tinted windows, making it seem as if there will not be personal consequences for our actions. If anyone has ever clicked on the comments thread of a news article, they will be able to tell you that anonymity doesn’t always lead to level-headed responses to anger.
So the next time you’re feeling angry on the road, try to remember that there’s a person in the other car, probably feeling the same way that you do. Unless they’re tailgating you in traffic, of course; then all rules are off.
Do you have any road rage stories that you’ve survived?