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Considering the ever-increasing pace of life across the globe, possessing a car and being able to drive one has become a necessity. The number of car owners grows exponentially each year, and unfortunately, so does the amount of deaths and injuries related to driving. However, not all of these accidents are regular car crashes; a significant percentage of cases when drivers get hurt or die is caused by a phenomenon widely known as road rage.

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This term appeared in California, USA, in the 1980s, to describe a series of shootings that occurred on the freeways of Los Angeles. Perhaps, the most suitable definition for this phenomenon is a driver’s loss of emotional control and/or stability caused by traffic events, and leading to this driver’s deviant or offensive behavior: aggressive driving, verbal and/or gesture abuse, physical attacks, and even gunfire. Apparently, those incidents were not isolated, and road rage gradually turned into one of the biggest driving problems in the United States; during the period between 1990-1996, there was a 51% increase of road rage incidents. In 2007, because of road rage attacks on construction workers, Highway 138 in Los Angeles was closed, and in 2012, there was a mass fistfight near Los Angeles downtown. It is considered that road rage can be linked to at least 218 deaths by murder (and this number increases annually at a rate of 7% each year); also, it is considered that at least 66% of recent traffic fatalities can be linked to aggressive driving, 37% percent of them being cases of gunfire (Elite Driving School).

Psychiatrists believe some drivers can be more prone to developing road rage than others. Usually, people who tend to fall into this condition are relatively young (in their late 20s or in the middle of 30s), male, and possibly suffering from a psychological condition called IED—intermittent emotional disorder. This condition can be generally characterized by sudden outbursts of anger accompanied by a decreased ability to control it, and to refrain from releasing it upon others. The factors responsible for such a behavior can be different, starting from chronic stress, and ending up with an intense emotional condition, such as losing a job or an important person (Traffic School).

Los Angeles is not the only city in the United States subject to road rage; Phoenix, Miami, Boston, New York, as well as many other big cities across the whole 50 states are on the list too), but it is because of such cases the state of California decided to turn road rage into a legal term, and treat those who succumb to it respectively (Traffic School). Road rage is rather often confused with aggressive driving, and although the latter can be the “symptom” of road rage, the first one is a more complex phenomenon. “Legally, road rage is not recognized in most states,” says Dr. Leon James, professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii. “There are some laws that have been enacted by about 20 states on ‘aggressive driving.’ Still, the majority of states have no laws that mention either road rage or aggressive driving and prefer to handle driving enforcement through existing laws that specify violations.” According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Aggressive driving is a traffic offense; road rage is a criminal offense.” The NHTSA defines aggressive driving as occurring when “an individual commits a combination of moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property,” whereas road rage is “an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway” (South Source).

If you have found yourself in a situation when another driver started behaving aggressively towards you, the optimal reaction would be to avoid direct eye contact and not behave aggressively in response, regardless of whether it was your fault causing road rage or not ( This might seem a bit self-humiliating, as a refusal to stand for your own rights and dignity, but you should remember that drivers with road rage sometimes cannot handle their anger, and if they have firearms or other weapons with them, the situation might turn fatal.

As it can be seen, road rage is a rather widespread phenomenon on the roads of the United States. First noticed by media in the late 1980s, it quickly became one of the main traffic problems in the United States. In some states—California, for example—road rage is already treated as a crime. Drivers subject to road rage are usually young, and suffer from IED, which can cause them to behave uncontrollably. Therefore, the best tactics against such a driver would be to avoid eye contact and not to respond with aggression towards their behavior.

Works Cited

  1. “Online Traffic School.” The Phenomenon of Road Rage. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.
  2. “What Causes Road Rage?” South Source. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.
  3. “Road Rage Statistics Filled with Surprising Facts.” Elite Driving School. N.p., 08 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.
  4. “Aggressive Driving and Road Rage.” N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.
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