4 reasons for road rage

Have you ever seen someone get caught up in road rage? Maybe you watched two drivers scream at each other at a stoplight, or maybe you had a driver make obscene gestures to you out their window. It takes a lot of different forms, but one thing is for certain: From the outside, you may find it hard to understand road rage.

Why are people so angry? Why do they let that anger lead to aggressive and dangerous actions? Why do they take things so far that they cause accidents?

Anywhere else, these people may seem nice and understanding. If you met them at church or in line at a local fast food restaurant, they would appear pleasant and kind. You'd get along. But if you meet them on the road, they appear to be some of the most angry, disrespectful people you have ever encountered.

While every case is unique, there are four potential factors that can lead to road rage. Typically, a single event triggers it, like a mistake made by another driver. Mistakes could include tailgating, changing lanes without a blinker, not driving forward at a green light or cutting someone off. Then these factors help escalate things even further:

1. Distance

In the car, you feel anonymous. That person can't get physically close to you. They don't know you. In your mind, they'll never have any clue who you are or how to find you later. Road rage feels more natural because of this distance. Many drivers who yell at each other in traffic would never do it in a more intimate setting.

2. Person-related factors

People bring their own unique factors to every encounter. It could be as simple as their mood. Someone who is stressed out about work is a lot faster to snap and yell than someone who feels relaxed and happy. Other factors can include their beliefs, gender or age.

3. Interpretations

The way two people view an incident is not always the same. For instance, one car may cut off another. The driver who cut that person off made an honest mistake and feels bad, but has no way to express it. The driver who got cut off, though, thinks that they did it on purpose or with a reckless disregard for their life. They feel furious. People also tend to jump to worst-case scenario assumptions. A driver who thinks they almost died may get more angry because the stakes feel so high.

4. Contextual stressors

The specifics of the situation play into it, as well. Some common stressors include hot temperatures, heavy traffic, road work and time pressures.

No matter why it happens, if a driver who experiences road rage injures you in an accident, make sure you know how to seek financial compensation.

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