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Road rage is the ultimate driving distraction

During the last decade there have been major studies conducted on road rage by the American Psychological Assn., the American Automobile Assn and newspapers as prestigious as the New York Times.

Road rage leads the list

Indeed, with the depth of information that has been developed by psychologists like Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher and others, drivers now overwhelmingly believe that road rage is by far the leading driving distraction drivers face every day.

Here's a scenario that happens quite often to every driver. It also illustrates just how close to the surface road rage is in many drivers.

The scenario is this:

You have been sitting patiently waiting for a driver pull out of a curbside parking space. It hasn't been easy as the driver pulling out is fairly new and took his time pulling out. Finally, he pulls out and, as you ready yourself to pull in, you find that someone has glided into the parking space, filling it quite nicely.

A small test

  1. Here is a small test to gauge your reaction to the situation.You simply move on to find an other space.

  2. You move on to find another space, but muttering under your breath.

  3. You become mildly berserk honking your horn and shouting, all the while wondering which cereal package the other driver received his license from.

  4. You go over the top, shouting wildly, honking your vehicle's horn, banging the wheel, questioning everything from his lineage to his pets.

Depends on how you see yourself

Remembering that this is a psychological quiz where there is no right or wrong answer and the questions, how would you rate yourself? Most drivers see themselves a 1 or 2 category driver – reasonable, for the most part.

Few drivers ever admit to being a category 3 or 4 driver as that would indicate they are distracted drivers. What would be the cause of their distraction? Road-rage is the villain of this piece.

If one were to take digital camera and image the entire run-up, the drivers involved would probably believe that the images were showing other drivers. And, when shown that they were actually the drivers involved they would still not believe it.

Just not road-raging drivers

No driver likes to be seen as a road-raging motorist but it turns out that with all of the stress that drivers face in traffic, they distract themselves from that stress by:

  • Shouting

  • Speeding up

  • Swerving in and out of traffic

  • Generally paying little heed to others in traffic, except the driver he was out to “get”

What would happen if he “got” the other driver? The chances are good that nothing would happen as people realize that they just don't know what lurks behind the door of the car they were chasing.

Just leave the area quickly

The ultimate action in this scenario is that the chaser would likely just leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible.

It's funny, though, that although they think they are nearly invisible to the rest of the world, they were not invisible to the drivers they cut off, the drivers they passed unsafely and the drivers who may have narrowly missed becoming accident statistics because of a combination of luck and driving skill.

Recording devices available

If either of the drivers involved in this road-rage session were to have had their vehicles equipped with the infrared imaging cameras and software that are now available they would have been surprised.

The surprise would have been the range of emotions and changes that appeared on each driver's face as they played “ring around the traffic.” Based on infrared facial recognition, the imaging system would have shown the drivers an array of emotional facial signals that they wouldn't have believed possible.

AAA Foundation for Highway Safety findings

Interestingly, the AAA Fountation for Highway Safety (AFHS), has had similar findings in its own programs. AFHS studies have shown that distracted driving is first in the thinking of many drivers.

In their yearly driver studies, fully 50 percent feel more unsafe than they have before, citing distraction as the key to their answers. Calling distracted driving “deadly behavior,” AFHS, quoting government statistics, believes that fully 16 percent of fatal accidents – about 5,000 deaths – can be directly attributed to distracted driving. With road-rage as one of the top distractions, is it any wonder why driver's are feeling less safe on the road than ever before?


Are there any solutions to the distracted driving problem? If it is road rage, then the most obvious solution is to slow down and take a more relaxed view of the road ahead. Of course, as safety agencies point out, you must drive defensively – many newer cars also have warning systems that help with this as they warn of cars entering your own vehicle's blindspot to the side and rear.

Also, drivers can make sure that all cellphones are turned off for the duration of the trip. No one should be using one of these devices, unless you are pulled off the road and parked and then only in an emergency.

The same is true of the vehicle's entertainment systems. Make sure the DVDs your passengers want are loaded so they can watch the entertainment they want to watch in piece. Up front, DVDs should never be mounted – though they can be now – because it is too tempting for drivers to grab a peak at the latest Godzilla movie. Though the displays are now almost seven inches deep, they should only be used for map displays and directions, as well as to check the rear of your vehicle before you back up.

Ultimate solution is still you, the driver

However you look at the distracted driving issue, the bottom list is still this, the ultimate solution is you the driver. Please see

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