US The two biggest reasons America's road rage shootings are out of control
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The U.S. is experiencing a. And the list of are almost endless — tailgating, illegally passing on the shoulder, horn honking, cutting drivers off, yelling, flashing one’s high beams or making obscene gestures. But too often, these incidents don’t end with an epithet. This week, a man in over a woman multiple times in a suspected road rage incident. And it gets worse: In 2021, 45 people were wounded and 11 were killed — in Dallas alone. Across the country, last year was one of the worst years on record for these kinds of deadly outbursts.
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There isat play here, but we know psychology plays a key role. The more drivers engage in aggressive “ ,” the more upset they become, and the more they engage in dangerous driving behaviors. This can lead them to become and stay angry during and after what they perceive as a driving provocation, as well as their having more intense thoughts on how to get even.
This psychology intensifies when an individual is already prone to anger. There’s plenty of research that shows that people with a high, long-standing disposition toward anger have anas intentionally aggressive, viewing the . These expressions of road rage are usually not the first time these individuals . Antagonists may view the roads and to control their temper. They also . Obviously, driving under the influence of increases the .
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For the past few decades,, a social psychologist and professor at Ohio State University, has studied the causes, consequences and solutions to human aggression. Bachman told me he believes there are two related factors for the uptick in road rage. The first is frustration. “In 1939, a group of Yale scholars proposed the frustration-aggression hypothesis,” he said. “Frustration is defined as blocking goal-directed behavior. The pandemic has blocked many goals for many people.”
The second factor is also related to the pandemic, but in a different way. There has been aover the past few years. “Although guns don’t directly cause aggression, they dramatically increase the likelihood that any situation involving conflict will be fatal,” Bushman notes. This makes sense. We all have a built-in emergency system. This system has likely been inflamed by pandemic-related isolation, the disinformation that has spread on social media and our nationwide access to lethal weapons.
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I also spoke withone of the co-authors of the book “Road Rage: Assessment and Treatment of the Angry, Aggressive Driver.” She told me that there are often warning signs with this type of behavior. But being in a car can make aggression worse. “Unfortunately, bad behavior can be amplified in driving situations due to anonymity (drivers are not easily identifiable or known to other drivers) and because the car offers a quick getaway,” she said. This makes accountability even harder.
“Understanding why someone is driving aggressively can help determine how to change his/her behavior,” Galovski explained, noting that it is possible to adjust those aggressive or dangerous mindsets. Self-aware angry drivers can try things like planning ahead and leaving more time to get to their destination or improving their driving experience by listening to an audio book or taking a scenic route. It’s also important to keep one’s own stress levels low and practice relaxation tips like deep breathing or counting to 10 — and if it’s not working, pulling over.
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Passengers on a Manhattan-bound train had to dodge bullets while being blinded by smoke during the Tuesday morning commute, setting off a manhunt for a gunman whose motives are still unknown. © From Will B. Wylde Commuters were riding the subway as it neared the 36th Street subway station in Brooklyn's Sunset Park just before 8:30 a.m. when the gunman opened two smoke grenades, brandished a 9 mm handgun and fired at least 33 times striking 10 people -- seven men and three women -- according to NYPD Chief of Detectives James W. Essig. © John Minchillo/AP Police tape blocks off the subway stop on Tuesday.
“In the long run, noticing your thoughts and understanding how they contribute to your anger and angry behaviors is important,” Galovski says. “If someone thinks that drivers are all ‘idiots,’ for example, then that person is likely to notice any examples of driving that support this thought. A simple intervention is for people to intentionally look for examples that contradict this negative and erroneous belief. A more accurate thought is that most people drive well, some people make mistakes sometimes, and there are a few bad drivers out there.”
To be fair to the U.S., road rage is a serious public health issue around the world, including in, , , and . But what is unique to the U.S. — and particularly dangerous — is a phenomenon some researchers call , which describes how drivers act and react when they have gun with them in their car. The psychology behind this effect was first demonstrated in a , which found that students placed in rooms with guns acted more aggressively. What this study tells us is that stimuli associated with aggression can arouse violent responses in those who are already prone to act destructively. This research many times over many years since.
Road rage is both a personal and collective problem. On the one hand, we need a multifacetedto stop these drivers from making life perilous for the rest of us, and raise awareness of red flag behavior. Aggressive drivers need to learn that they don’t “ ,” and we can help them more appropriately manage their thoughts, feelings and actions. But we also likely need to for road rage behaviors as well as engage in public education to inform all drivers of the risks. In a civilized society, it should be a national outrage that hundreds of people a year are being shot o as tailgating. And yet here we are.
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