Road rage is defined as “a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behavior.” When considering rage management offered by my practice, I think of anger plus behavior as the target for treatment.
Have you or someone you’ve known ever experienced a road rage incident in the United States (U.S.)? Notably, it isn’t that uncommon for these unnecessary events to occur. According to one source:
· 82% of drivers in the U.S. admit to having road rage or driving aggressively at least once in the past year.
· 59% of drivers reported showing anger by honking.
· 45% of drivers report changing lanes without signaling.
· 42% of drivers claimed they’ve yelled or cursed loudly at another driver.
· 38% said they’ve used rude or obscene gestures against other drivers.
· In 2006, only 80 fatal crashes were related to road rage.
· In 2015, the number of road rage-related fatal car accidents was up to 467, up 500% in just 9 years.
· Road rage has led to an estimated 300 deaths since 2013.
· About 30 murders nationwide have been attributed to incidents that started with road rage.
· The American Automobile Association has linked more than 12,500 injuries to driver violence, out of 10,000 car accidents since 2007.
· Of the deaths related to road rage, most have been considered deliberate murders.
· Over a seven-year time period, more than 200 murders and 12,000 injuries were attributed to road rage.
Driver say, “Gimme the right of way.” Why still? Ya gotta’ say, “Right away; ándale, ándale! Stupid, ‘cmon! Today!” Like car-to-the-ier [Cartier], the light’s flashin’. Late night spazzin’. Up in ya’ head, runnin’ a red. And it just turned red. Straight Fishburne headache, thinkin’ ‘bout Montana. Click and it’s on camera. Only difference is they smile when it gets candid. Hold this ticket! Ya’ say, “Nah,” but you’re red-handed. Woofin’ and tailgatin’, tall order, ya’ found Satan. Gotta’ get figures. Ya’ sick! Big is the deal’s waitin’. Do or die! Slip to suicide. Fingers, still tastin’. Damn, them horns getting’ you red, on some real Satan. Find the driver’s license to kill ‘em. Fightin’ the feelin’. Wanna’ catch you and snatch you, while on some violence to feelings.
Describing a quick escalation scenario, Breeze Brewin addresses how a person’s expectation for rules of the road to be followed ultimately devolves into violence. Though you may have never been involved in an unmitigated attack scenario while driving, can you relate to the intensification described in the verse?
A person fails to yield the right of way. Someone doesn’t move when the light turns red. You become impatient while waiting for a light to turn green. Someone records your behavior while driving. An individual tailgates you.
People use their horns as though they’re making money with each press of the audible warning. An exchange of driver information takes place due to an accident. You experience a gnawing urge to physically assault another motorist.
If none of these apply to you, congratulations! For the rest of us, think about how close you’ve come to dire consequences following a road rage incident. What do you think caused your emotional consequence during such an event?
The B-C connection
Some of my earliest memories involve my mom chasing other motorists through the streets of our town during high speed chases. Regarding her behavior, I learned that when people cut her off, flew the bird, or violated rules of the road, these actions led to my mom’s reaction.
However, I was wrong.
Once I learned of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I understood that actions do not result in consequences, forming an action-consequence (A-C) connection. Instead, what we believe about the actions of other people is what causes consequences, establishing a belief-consequence (B-C) connection.
Unfortunately, I discovered REBT a number of decades after terrorizing many roadways. My irrational belief of an A-C connection not only led to self-disturbance by which I became rageful, this unhelpful belief possibly influenced the attitudes of other motorists which likely resulted in suffering.
I’ll briefly demonstrate how knowledge of the B-C connection could’ve benefitted me throughout the years, had I known then what I currently know. To illustrate my point, I’ll use the REBT ABC Model.
This scenario occurred many years ago in an unspecified location.
Action – While driving down the street, another motorist overtook my lane by rapidly positioning his vehicle in front of me (I was cut off) only to instantly slam on his brakes once ahead of me.
Belief – I believed, “This motherfucker should’ve seen me! I bet he’s done this to other people before, but I can’t let him take advantage of me. He’s gon’ learn today!”
Consequence – As a result of my unreasonable demand for the driver not to have behaved in such a manner, and because I unhelpfully believed what I’d heard my mom state on countless occasions about teaching others how they must operate a vehicle, I became angry, experienced a rush of energy throughout my body, and wound up following the guy to a local parking lot in which an edged weapon was promptly pulled on me by the frightened driver.
Was my mom responsible for how I behaved? No. This incident occurred many years after having lived with her.
Was the other driver the cause of my consequence? No. The irrationality of my belief system is what led to the consequence of anger, an uncomfortable bodily sensation, and my resulting behavior.
Taking personal ownership for the consequence of my beliefs, I now know that my attitude was the reason I became upset. Though I may have preferred for the other motorist not to cut me off and brake-check me, he was under no obligation to obey the commands in my mind.
Even though transportation codes within the state required drivers not to behave as the other motorist did, it’s also true that people frequently violate rules of the road. I was in no privileged position not to be treated in a manner I preferred or for laws not to be broken in my presence.
My current rational approach is an example of disputation concerning my past irrational belief. I don’t dispute the action or consequence; though instead challenge the unhelpful narrative or attitude that led to the consequence.
While it’s true that I learned the practice of aggressive and angry driving from my mom, only I am responsible and accountable for my reactions with other motorists. So too is the case for other people who involve themselves in road rage events.
Even when provoked or when someone else is driving in an irritating manner, we don’t have to reflexively behave in a way that doesn’t serve our interests and goals. One may argue that having a knife pulled during a parking lot dispute over foolish driving isn’t something worth dying or killing for.
It’s understandable to think in an A-C connection frame of mind. However, just beCAUSE someone cuts you off in traffic doesn’t mean the action causes the resulting consequence.
Rather, it’s the B-C connection which more appropriately explains the cause-effect relationship associated with road rage incidents. That means it’s beCAUSE you believe something others neglect to consider that you will experience an uncomfortable consequence.
Breeze Brewin illustrated a rapidly escalating example of how quickly a situation may deteriorate when irrational beliefs aren’t challenged. As well, I provided a personal antidote in which an unhelpful outcome resulted during younger years.
In reality, and statistically speaking, most people in the U.S. are likely to have encountered at least one instance of road rage within the past year. Nonetheless, you don’t have to repeat the cycle of rage.
How would you like to react next time someone cuts you off, flies the bird, or violates rules of the road? Are you ready to learn more about disputing your unhealthy beliefs? I may be able to help.
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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