It is apparent that road ragers represent a very mixed bag of people. They may have only one of the attributes described above or several characteristics, or they may have other features we have yet to discover. Regardless of the initiating factors, however, road ragers seem to respond to various types of therapies.
Prevention and Treatment
Although prevention is the best option, studies have shown that treatment can be effective as well. Deffenbacher conducted two experiments in which subjects received either training in relaxation only or training in relaxation along with other therapies intended to change subjects’ dysfunctional thoughts about driving. In general, subjects did better with either of the two treatments than with no treatment. These studies were well designed, but we need to be cautious about generalizing the results to the wider population because all subjects were college students and thus do not represent the full range of road ragers.
Recently psychologist Tara E. Galovski of the University of Missouri–St. Louis and her colleagues evaluated a group treatment for road rage aimed at adults who were either self-referred or court-referred. Treatment consisted of four weekly two-hour sessions that included education about road rage and anger, recognition of being an angry driver, relaxation techniques, coping skills and training in different ways to think about anger-eliciting driving situations. Those who received treatment did far better than those who did not and curbed their aggressive behavior by more than 60 percent on average.
In addition to combating the problem with treatments for individuals, policy leaders could make changes that might reduce road rage in society at large. Sociologist Mark Asbridge of Dalhousie University in Halifax and his associates have made interesting recommendations. One of these is new or increased penalties for road rage. Laws already cover extreme forms, such as assault and dangerously aggressive driving. Asbridge and his co-workers suggest the possible value of broader adoption of an Australian national law that stipulates that drivers must not drive so as to “menace” other persons by threat of personal injury or property damage. Other ideas include mass-media education about road rage and how to avoid it, societal changes such as reducing traffic congestion and promoting public transportation, court programs for convicted road ragers, and redesign of cars to prevent excessive headlight flashing and horn blowing; some cars have already been designed to prevent tailgating.
We conclude with a brief anecdote. Arkowitz used to drive to work on a road that prominently displayed a billboard advertising a funeral home. It showed a picture of the funeral home, along with five simple, but powerful, words: “Drive carefully, we can wait.” We hope that greater awareness of road rage and its treatments will help keep them waiting for a long time to come.
Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Road Warriors".