Another Salem Witch Trials

  • Category: Psychology
  • Words: 893
  • Grade: 100
It seems like you can''t drive more than two miles today ithout

encountering road rage. Some say that road rage is a national epidemic more

dangerous than drunk driving. Others find it to be a perpetual but

insignificant problem. Needless to say, almost everyone agrees that road

rage is an actual attitude that can be observed on most American roadways.

But what is road rage? Is it some kind of medical condition? A certain habit

or behavior? Or maybe it''s an actual traffic accident?

Road rage has a short but interesting history. The term "road rage" first

appeared in England in 1988 and gained popularity rapidly. Mentioned only

about two dozen times in 1994, there was an extensive increase when the term

was mentioned 400 times the following year. In 1996 the term appeared 1,600

times and has been steadily growing since then. The public has grasped the

term and considers it to be one of the foremost national driving concerns.

In a recent AAA poll 44% of motorists ranked road rage as the biggest threat

on the road while drunk driving ranked second with 31%. Road rage is now an

everyday household term heard on the evening news and read in newspapers

daily (Bowles, Scott, and Paul Overberg).

So what is this new-sprung expression that has received so much attention

in recent years? Numerous people have tried to define the term and add some

clarity to it''s meaning. Some have tried to determine it''s psychological

significance and apply it to certain people. Others have defined the term

according to traffic violations--speeding, running stoplights and

recklessness. In addition, others have tried to classify it according to

poor driving conduct such as obscene gestures and unkind words. Each of

these definitions are valid interpretations of road rage''s meaning


Many psychologists believe road rage to be an aggressive behavior disorder.

Arnold Nerenberg, a psychologist in Whittier, California, is one of the most

prevalent experts on road rage in America. Nerenberg believes that road rage

is a "mental disorder and social disease," which involves evolution. He

states that throughout history mankind has had a competitive spirit and

tries to dominate others. Nerenberg defines road rage as " basically a

maladaptive reaction to an identifiable psycho-social stressor that


with social functioning," or, more simply put, "one driver expressing anger

at another driver ... at least twice a year." John Larson, a psychiatrist at

Yale University, believes road rage is a "vigilante behavior" and that

different levels of road rage exist. Furthermore, Larson believes that road

rage is caused by association with sports, saying that a road rager is an

individual who is "strongly imbued with the sports model, either from high

school, college or professional sports; and from identification with sports

heroes who

become introjected models for behavior." Make and model of a car is also a

determining factor in road rage, according to Larson. People who drive a

sports car, sport utility vehicle, or pickup truck may be seen as targets of

aggression (Fumento). Psychology helps to define road rage but leaves some

questions unanswered, perhaps other factors can further define it.

Many states have passed road rage legislation and given their definition of

it. Arizona was the first state to pass aggressive driving laws. Arizona

defines aggressive driving as a misdemeanor violation that occurs when a

speeding car commits two of three other violations--erratic lane changes,

tailgating, and failure to yield (Bowles, Scott, and Paul Overberg). New

York has also recently passed road rage legislation. On February 9, 1998,

Governor Pataki announced the bill saying "this bill sends a clear message

to those who

choose to jeopardize the lives of others by turning New York''s roads and

highways into danger zones. Too many collisions are not accidents. If you

choose to operate your car in a reckless, irresponsible manner, you will be

arrested and punished to the maximum extent the law will allow." New York

defines aggressive driving, or road rage, as "the unsafe operation of a


vehicle in a hostile manner, without regard for the safety of other users of

the highway. Aggressive driving includes frequent or unsafe lane changes,

failing to signal, tailgating, failing to yield right of way, and

disregarding traffic controls." Legal definitions help to define road rage,

however, obscene or menacing behavior towards other drivers is also a factor

in the term''s definition.

Road rage can also be defined as simple acts of aggression which are

menacing to other drivers. For example, a car is going slower than the speed

limit and the driver behind it is late for work and speeding. The fast

driver will inevitably become angry, start to swear at the other driver and

pass him. While passing, the aggressive driver may display some obscene hand

gestures to the slow driver. There it is--a classic example of road rage.

Nothing particularly illegal took place, but anger and tension were present

in this case.

The definitions of road rage are numerous and cover a broad category of

ideas. Each one has it''s factuality, but which one is the most valid? There

is no answer to that question. Each definition has it''s advantages and

shortcomings. It all depends on what context you are using the word in--as a

psychological term, a legal term, or just everyday conversation. What''s more

is that, with it''s growing use, definitions of road rage are sure to become

even greater and broader.
ad 4
Copyright 2011 All Rights Reserved