Calming the Road Rage


The phrase, “road rage,” originated when it was used to describe a pattern of tragic shootings between 1987 and 1988 in LA by local news station KTLA. In the time since the phrase has meaning has both grown and diluted to the point that it is now used for every piece of driving that seems out of order, such as tailgating, swerving and long horn-honks. However, it is still used for more violent acts.

But why did incidents of “road rage” come to light during 1987 and 1988? At least part of the reason people took notice is the use of guns, which seemed exotic compared to simply running someone off the road. Probably the big reason these instances caught our national attention would have something to do with dashcam footage which found its way on T.V.

A similar phrase – highway hostility – which was also used at the time didn’t catch on.

Likely factors which may have led to the problems in LA include:

  • The general sprawl of the city’s highways
  • The congestion
  • The hot weather

Many would credit the hysteria and paranoia of the media for heightening the situation, but there was genuine fear by some.

Ironically the year when road rage became a thing may also have statistically had the most cautious and polite drivers. The phrase didn’t really catch on at the time. Maybe the media were worried about starting at an epidemic.

angry-man-274175_1920However, the phrase was reborn when the streets of Paris began to show similar rage activity in the 1990s.

There are 1,200 incidents a year of what might be described as “road rage”, the average age of offenders is 33 and 96.6% of all cases are by males.

Your typical road rager is a 19-year-old male with bumper stickers on his car. (No we’re not kidding.)

To counter the stereotype though, go to YouTube and search for “road rage females.” There are plenty of incidences of road rage caused by Moms on the school run.

66% of all fatalities involving any sort of traffic is caused by aggression and 33% of all cases involve a firearm. More concerning is that 2% of road rage victims will try to drive an aggressive driver off the road. This is not recommended!

According to the DSM5, road ragers may be suffering from IED or Intermittent Explosive Disorder which symptoms include both angry and violent outbursts as well as twitching and palpitations. Treatment may be possible through cognitive behavior therapy as well as antidepressants and an inhibitor drug, though presumably care should be taken when taking prescribed drugs while driving.

Other ways to counter road rage is listening to soothing music, not staring at other drivers and not using what might be described as obscene gestures at them. Simply put, staying out of a negative headspace.

So calm down, and be aware of your fellow drivers. Nothing is worth getting too overstressed over.


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