Accident Underscores Problem of Road Rage

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An Atlanta cyclist was left in critical condition after an apparent hit-and-run car accident inspired by a fit of road rage, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The cyclist, who has biked in the Atlanta metro area for 20 years, was struck by the driver of a red SUV and dragged 50 feet on June 9, the AJC reports. The extent of the cyclist’s injuries have not been specified, but they are bad enough that they cyclist was not allowed to receive any type of neurological stimulation until six days after the collision, according to the article.

Witnesses have told police that the man was cycling on Montgomery Ferry Road when a Dodge Nitro turned onto the road from Flagler Avenue. There was an argument, and the cyclist rode off. Moments later, the SUV turned around and plowed him down.

This incident is a sobering reminder of the dangers of road rage. While many of us may angrily honk our horn or yell when another driver does something that irritates us, some drivers can lose their cool so badly that they become violent.

Atlanta Has Earned Reputation for Road Rage Incidents

In its 2014 “In the Driver’s Seat Road Rage Survey,” the roadside assistance service AutoVantage ranked Atlanta as the second-least courteous city in the country when it comes to road rage. Unfortunately, that is two spots higher than when data was last collected in 2009.

Road rage is classified as a form of aggressive driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as any moving violations committed by an individual that endangers people or property.

Speeding, tailgating, driving slowly in the left lane, red-light running and racing are other examples of aggressive driving. The NHTSA estimates that aggressive driving plays a role in about one-third of all traffic crashes and two-thirds of fatalities associated with those wrecks.

Other data from a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey found that aggressive driving played a role in 56 percent of fatal crashes. Although neither study specifically studied road rage alone, it is clear that America’s roads can be perilous places to be when drivers allow emotions to take control of their driving.

Why Do We Get So Angry?

Mental health experts say that the kind of road rage that leads to violence usually comes from a buildup of stress that finally blows up by a simple annoyance such as getting cut off in traffic. Psychologists also say that humans are inherently territorial, which makes the car their personal space. When an irresponsible driver threatens that space, people react defensively – and some are just more hostile than others.

There is no way to know which of your fellow motorists is prone to snapping to the point of killing. That means that you must find ways to keep your own anger in check.

Suggestions for Managing Road Rage

Scientists at a university in Switzerland are currently developing software that could be placed in cars to help recognize when someone has road rage. The technology is still in its infancy, but the idea is that it would be able to recognize facial expressions like anger or disgust and alert a driver that he or she needs to calm down. Similar efforts are being made by engineers in Canada, who are working on technology that would relax drivers by playing soothing music.

But those innovations will not help you handle road rage now. It is important to have strategies to manage your irritation so that a dangerous situation on the roads doesn’t escalate into a deadly one. Here are some tips:

  • Get a good night’s sleep. A tired driver is more easily agitated by minor traffic offenses and may react irrationally as a result.
  • Listen to calming music. Listening to a loud rock song may seem like a good way to channel frustrations, but it could actually make you more hostile. Calm music, talk radio or listening to audiobooks are all recommended ways to relax behind the wheel.
  • Forgive and forget. Focus on driving safely when you encounter an aggressive driver and not on making sure they know you are mad.
  • Do not make eye contact with an aggressive driver. He or she may interpret it as a challenge.
  • Protect yourself. If a driver with road rage is threatening you, lock your doors and call 911.
  • Drive courteously. Simple kindness, like allowing a driver to merge or acknowledging your mistake with a wave, can go a long way to preventing road rage. 

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