Road Rage

Last week a serious incident of road rage in Edmonton made headlines across the country. A woman honked her horn at another driver and was then followed to her home where she was attacked with a crow bar and received two broken arms. 

Thanks to a dash cam and tips from the public, police were able to find and arrest the attacker and he was charged with attempted murder.

This was a horrific incident and fortunately not an extremely common one – which is why it was national news. 

Unfortunately, road rage itself is not uncommon and even when it’s not newsworthy, it can be very dangerous. In the US, it is estimated that two thirds of traffic fatalities are the result of aggressive driving actions such as passing on the right, tail gating and running red lights. 

I hear about road rage on a regular basis from patients experiencing a variety of psychiatric conditions. They often talk about feeling completely out of control in situations when they are annoyed on the road. 

In my experience, the three most common conditions associated with road rage and this loss of control, are substance abuse, the manic phase of bipolar disorder and ADHD. Although these are the most common, any condition that reduces impulse control or is associated with increased irritability could be a problem. 

Given that the enraged person may already feel out of control or be in an irrational state, it is very important for the individual on the other side of a road rage altercation not to do anything that may make the situation worse. Remember the other person may not respond rationally.

Some tips to consider: avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver; refrain from using obscene gestures, which can cause an incident to escalate; and report aggressive drivers to police. 

If there is an assault, property damage, or uttered threats, report it to the authorities. Not only will this potentially get an unsafe driver off the road, but it may be the necessary instigation for a mentally ill individual to get needed help.

Avoid getting into situations either as an aggressor or victim by following safe and courteous driving guidelines. Give yourself enough time to get to your destination to avoid speeding; don’t take traffic problems personally; don’t tail gate; use your horn sparingly; don’t block the passing lane or turn lane; create a relaxing atmosphere in your vehicle to help you stay calm.
If you believe another driver is attempting to start a fight, get help immediately. Do not get out of your car or drive to your home. Proceed immediately to the nearest police station or to a public place. 

Finally, if road rage is a problem for you, consider speaking to your health care provider about it. There could be an underlying condition causing you to feel out of control. Help is available.


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