Spend any time on the road and you’re bound to encounter a driver whose rage seems out of control: They drive like lunatics, gesturing wildly at other vehicles, weaving in and out of traffic erratically and mouthing curses at other drivers as they go.
What gives? You may be tempted to chalk a driver who is caught up in a fit of road rage as nothing more than a hot-head, but the reality is far more complicated.
Researchers say that almost all drivers can engage in a little road rage from time to time. While they’re all generally nice people who would never think about cursing at someone who cut them off with a grocery cart in the store, those inhibitions (and their judgment) fly out the window when they’re behind the wheel of a car.
Behind the wheel, a sense of depersonalization takes hold of most drivers. They’re cut off from normal modes of communication with everyone else around them on the road, and they end up seeing other drivers in abstract terms. Instead of seeing you, a person, they just see your car, which is a thing — and it’s very hard to empathize with a thing. That loss of empathy translates into emotional judgments and reactions that are largely negative.
Aggressive driving and incidents of road rage are on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatal accidents linked to aggressive driving have gone up almost 500% in the decade between 2006 and 2015 — and there are many more accidents that result in lesser injuries. If you fall victim to an aggressive driver or a road rage incident, concentrate on getting help for your injuries above everything else. Once you begin to recover, find out more about how you can hold the other party liable for their actions.