EDITION: August - September '06


Aggression and rage belong to the basic feelings of human beings which people experience in many different facets. A common outlet for these emotions is driving. Questionnaires from different psychological studies show that aggressive driving is very common.

How to recognize aggressive road users?

Car drivers: following too close, honking or flashing lights, abrupt changing of lanes, cutting off other drivers, burning rubber, extremely fast or extremely slow driving
Motorbike drivers: motor revving, winding through traffic jams, driving close to pedestrians or other road users, racing with other motorbike drivers
Bicycle riders: driving too close to cars or pedestrians, driving in the middle of the road, driving in groups next to each other
Pedestrians: intentional slow walking when using cross walks, walking in the middle of the road obstructing traffic.

How do the aggressions manifest themselves?

Verbal aggressions: insults, threats, humiliation, scoffing
Physical aggressions: fights, damaging other vehicles
Instrumental aggressions: obstruction of other road users.

Where does aggression in traffic come from?

On one hand the prevailing road conditions can be the reason.
For example: long waiting times in a traffic jam, stress getting to work, construction, red lights, heavily used intersections, when others drive too fast or too slow, prejudice against other car drivers (tourists, drivers of different vehicles types, young or old drivers). Also you can see aggressive driving in groups or from juveniles, because the driver wants to show off in front of his friends.
The real reason for aggression of the individual has usually a deeper origin than the traffic and most of the time the anger has been brought into the car from before. The origin can be from different areas of life such as disappointment and frustration at work, in the family, with friends or relationships. Other reasons can be mistakes during the day, low self-esteem, and dissatisfaction. Even a euphoric mood can change into its opposite if you get slowed way down in traffic. Many people experience feelings of freedom while driving. They enjoy getting into their car and going wherever they want. The driver also has a feeling of power and control over his vehicle. Anybody that tries to obstruct us in anyway is usually punished with aggressive behavior.

How can we deal better with our own aggressiveness?

- Become aware that our aggression is not directly related to the traffic situations but actually originates from other things in our life.
- Stay calm in critical situations, take a deep breath and understand that the other driver has a reason for his behavior.
- Start early, especially if you know what kind of traffic situation to expect.
- Be aware of your own aggressive feelings and try to use this energy in a positive way (finding compensation to react in a more relaxed way in all areas of your life).

All of us take part in traffic in one way or the other. So, everyone should try to make life easier for each other and not harder.