It’s probably not too big of a stretch to assume most of us have had a moment or two on the road where anger makes us want to go Redrum like Jack Nicholson’s character in Stephen King’s The Shining. Perhaps some of us have given into that anger on occasion. Not me, of course. I’m always cool as a snowflake on a winter’s day when driving. And I also have ocean front property in Arizona …
With modern society’s habit of overpacking day-to-day schedules and wanting everything now, now, now, it seems our tempers have grown short and our patience even shorter. I’ll admit there’s been times when I’ve been in traffic and felt like getting out of my car, laying down in the middle of the road, and throwing a full-blown fit that would rival any terrible twos tantrum. Luckily, I’ve been able to resist this urge. Others have not, however. And while they may not be literally on their backs swinging their arms and legs in the air, they tend to throw lots of not-so-nice hand and finger gestures and verbal obscenities at the offending vehicle.
What is particularly unsettling about this issue is that according to a report from AAA, an almost whopping 80% of drivers admit to expressing some form of rage, aggression, or anger while driving at least once during the year of the study. And if this study is based on someone’s own claims or admission, it most likely happens a lot more than once. This study also found that 4% of drivers reported getting out of their car to confront another driver and that 3% admitted to ramming another vehicle intentionally. While these percentages don’t sound like a lot, they equal to 7.6 million and 5.7 million drivers. The percentages increase significantly when it comes to blocking, tailgating, gestures, and other aggressive behaviors.
So, while we can joke about the not so flattering behavior of adults when they get behind the wheel, road rage is a serious problem and is particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. According to an article on The Conversation by Stan Steindl and James Kirby, road rage stems from several issues, including stressors encountered while on the road, such as traffic, temperature, or road construction, as well as personal beliefs and individual interpretations of a driving-related event. This is no surprise, but what is most interesting, is their point that 80% of people consider themselves to be above average drivers, which means there must be a lot of delusional drivers out there. This leads to the topic of the illusion of control.
The Illusion of Control and Anger on the Road
What is illusion of control? Essentially, it’s when a person thinks they can influence or control a situation that they actually can’t, especially when a person believes they possess skills that can make the outcome fall in their favor. Science Daily likens it to gambling. And if you think about it, if you have the illusion of control when driving or riding and you throw anger into the mix, it has the potential for disastrous results. After all, you’re gambling with your life—and the lives of others. No matter how skilled you are as a driver or a rider, you cannot control what another person does on the road—but you can control what you do—and that can make all the difference.
Riding a motorcycle provides improved cognitive functioning and higher levels of concentration. The science behind this reaffirms what many motorcyclists already know. However, when anger rears its ugly head, the ugly truth is cognitive functioning can literally fly out the window or over the windshield, so to speak. As anger activates the flight or fight response—which causes increased heart rate and a spike in blood pressure, as well as increased body temps—the possibility for a completely rational and otherwise peaceful person to flip into Hulk smash, Hulk bash mode also increases. While it doesn’t make it any less crazy, this does help shed light into one of the reasons road rage is so rampant.
Real-Life Road Rage Incidents Involving Motorcyclists
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples. These videos will make you cringe, but they highlight the importance of keeping your anger in check while riding or driving a car—but especially when riding.
The following video demonstrates how car drivers and motorcycle riders can be affected by road rage. And while it appears the car driver started this situation, both driver and rider were making very poor decisions that not only affected their lives, but could have impacted the lives of other innocent people on the road had one of them lost control of their vehicle.
Here’s another example of road rage involving a motorcycle with a less favorable outcome for the motorcyclist. The car drivers are obviously in the wrong in both of these videos, but what do you think of the riders’ behavior? Do you think they could have prevented any of this?
Tips for Staying Safe on the Road
Now that we’ve discussed causes of road rage and seen some real-life scenarios of road rage involving motorcycle riders, let’s talk about how you can protect yourself from cager ragers.
Don’t Engage with a Cager in a Rage
This might sound obvious, but from the above videos and many other examples you can find online, anger can sometimes get the best of anyone. If at all possible, avoid eye contact and refrain from doing anything that might come across as aggressive. As James T. Parks mentioned in a previous touring tip on this topic, in a car vs. motorcycle showdown, odds aren’t in the latter’s favor.
Be the Bigger Person
Admittedly, this can be hard in certain situations, especially when a driver is being reckless and threatening your safety on the road. It’s only natural that you’d want to correct their behavior or let them know they are in the wrong. However, this could just end up making the other driver angrier, especially if they are affected by the illusion of control. So, in incidences like this, try to ignore them. Navigate away from them if necessary, even if it means you have to deviate from your original route momentarily. Your life is more important than your ego. Just saying.
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
One of your best tactics for preventing yourself from becoming a road rage victim is ensuring you are not flying off the handle and falling into the illusion of control yourself. Since you can’t control other drivers or riders, you should try to be as vigilant as possible while you’re riding and take responsibility for your own actions. Make sure you aren’t doing something that would likely agitate or provoke a car driver. As AAA mentioned in their study, being tolerant and forgiving of other drivers can go a long way in keeping you safe on the road.
Avoiding Road Rage Isn’t Just Beneficial to Your Safety
Another interesting point I came across when researching this topic was the effects anger has on your health—and not just the kind that results from accidents. The stress chemicals dispersed within the body when you’re angry can have long-term health implications such as anxiety, headaches, depression, digestive issues, skin problems, sleep issues, and even heart attacks or strokes. So not only is road rage bad manners and dangerous, it can also be detrimental to your wellbeing—keep this in mind if you experience your own bouts of anger on the road or elsewhere, and when dealing with the above list.
As we are a safety-conscious publication, we think it’s important to cover topics like this from time to time. Being safety-oriented and having a positive mindset will also help improve your ride, regardless of what others may be doing on the road (at least under normal circumstances). Besides, we already know motorcycling makes you happier, healthier, and smarter, so most motorcycle riders are already ahead of the curve! So why not take things a step further and show the cagers how to be true champions of the road. Stay alert. Be vigilant. Be courteous. Be understanding. And above all, be safe out there. Ya know, like a motorcyclist (smile).
Be sure to share this article with all your riding and non-riding friends—after all, it’s for the betterment of the world, all ye motorcycling heroes!