Picture this – a seemingly innocuous lunch session with a bunch of friends or colleagues and everybody hops onto this great and good natured dude’s (or lady) car. While casually driving, another car suddenly swerved into this guy’s lane. In a flash, this mild natured guy turns into Hulk as veins can be seen sticking out of his neck, and thus begin a scary drama of car chase and and a series of menacing gestures and angry stares. Sounds familiar? This ‘dude’ can be your spouse, best friend, girl friend, boy friend, father, mother, uncle or aunt and, of course us.
We all know that the above would not end well for anyone and yes this is Road Rage we are talking about. In most cases, this inadvertently leads to exchanges of rather offensive hand gestures but in more tragic situation, altercation resulting in serious injuries and even death can happen such as the recent road rage case in Malaysia where a 29 year old man was killed, and before that, a teenager was shot to death in parking dispute in Thailand. More instances of road rage in South East Asia:
What is it about road rage that turns a normally sane person into a Mr. Hyde personality when they get behind the steering wheel? According to Barry Markell, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Park Ridge, Ill., there are simply too many people on the road and such overcrowding causes aggressive behaviour. An oft-cited observation by Dr. Barry (who has treated many perpetrators and victims of road rage) is that when he asked “You know those studies of overcrowding in rats?” which he answered with, “Well, rats are usually okay until there is one rat too many in an enclosed space and then they all turn on each other. There are far more people on the road than ever before. Crowding causes aggression.”
There seems to be an inkling of truth in the Dr. Barry’s remark as it is reported in Nikkei Asian Review that the Southeast Asia’s six major markets for automobile have recorded growth for three years running, rising to 6% for the year 2018. Both Indonesia and Thailand have registered more than 2 million of vehicles sold and Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore has a combined total of 3.57 million units. And it is also no coincidence that the traffic jams in most of South East Asia are so horrendous that flaring tempers are the norm during rush hour traffic.
However, other than the ever increasing number of vehicles on congested roads and highways, the use of smartphones while driving, poor driving ethics and lack of empathy also contribute to various road rage incidents in South East Asian countries. For example, it is not uncommon for drivers to text (or even attending to their Social Media accounts! ) on their smartphones during traffic jams (affecting the already slow moving traffic) and when there are no traffic jams, drivers could also be seen using their smartphones on highways and because of this, hogging the wrong lanes and manoeuvring erratically, causing irritation and even danger to other drivers.
Couple with inconsiderate drivers cutting queue at the last minute – severely testing one’s patience, until finally, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, we see deadly skirmishes so often associated with road rage.
It is fact of life that most, if not all, drivers will experience various annoyance and irritation at fellow drivers while on the road. At most, most of us will just rant and curse to ourselves or to our passengers. The tipping point for full-on road rage is when the person lacks the ability to handle anger or deflect the feeling of the said irritation while driving. This is reciprocated with aggressive driving and other subsequent violent behaviour that arises from disagreement with other drivers. When a driver gets angry or loses their temper from a traffic incident, it is then considered road rage.
When someone is getting angry, usually there is a tightening feeling. Anger activates the ‘fight or flight response’ which is the body’s reaction to all types of stress. When the stress response is triggered, the hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones increase heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and metabolism, and makes an individual react quickly to pressure or threats at hand.
Some of the physical symptoms are: headaches, muscle tension, chest tightness, palpitations, tingling, feelings of pressure in the head and tremors.
How do one control and alleviate the feeling of road rage? Here are some basic but effective anger management pointers that can be used when one feel an episode of oncoming road rage :
Mindful driving can be a powerful antidote to these driving-related problems. It helps make you aware of your anger being triggered so you became more capable of calming yourself before it escalates.
For instance, if you find yourself gripping the steering wheel really really hard (as though you want to strangle it), try flexing your fingers and loosening your hold. Not only will it gradually make driving a more pleasant experience, it could make you a better driver. Studies showed that mindfulness improves cognitive function and reduces the occurrence of distracting thoughts, which leads to safer driving practices.
Being mindful while driving means focusing attention on what you’re doing right now. Anchor your attention in the present when you drive, like:
Road rage is a warning sign of living in this stressful world. We all experience this feeling of frustration from time to time on the road.
Nevertheless, when this frustration gets out of hand, the raging behaviour can have dangerous consequences for ourselves, our passengers, and for everyone on the road around us. If we have a tendency to get angered or feel hostile whilst driving, we may need some anger management therapy. Looking for help from a qualified counsellor can reduce the impact of road rage by learning some basic anger management skills which we can utilise when we feel stressed or out of control on the road.
For those who struggles with road rage or gets easily angered when driving, it is imperative to find ways to remain calm, gain control over raw emotions (especially anger and hate) and avoid letting the irritation turn into an episode of aggressive driving or road rage.
Road rage can happen to anyone but it can be controlled and avoided. The benefit of being able to drive courteously and peacefully will not only help one reaches one’s destination safely, it will also steer us from dire and often destructive consequences arising from road rage.
And if we encounter any road bully or road rage perpetrator, just drive away, avoiding confrontation – it is not simply worth it if one were to end up getting injured or even dead just because of ego or to prove a point!
But if you really really still want to prove a point, you can perhaps follow this endearing and cheeky lady’s lead, where she posted lots of stick-it notes on the offending car and proceeded to perform an ‘exotic’ dance :
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