Sovereign Health Group Blog

Navigating through road rage

06-07-16 Category: Anger, Anger Management, Mental Health

Navigating through road rage

According to a study published just this year, the effect of road rage episodes on driving performance mirror that of substance use. Public service announcements have launched a full-court press through decades-long campaigns to dissuade driving under the influence.

AAA reports more drivers than ever are on the roads and the longest work-related car commutes in history. It seems pulling the brakes on road rage would equally pave the way for safety and improved driver mental health.

A look at road rage myths

According to research published by Angelo State University Social Sciences Research Journal:

  • No correlation is demonstrated between one’s level of empathy and driving behaviors or attitudes
  • Vehicle size is not a predictor of negative driving behaviors or attitudes

Survey company Populus polled 2,000 drivers and explains:

  • Music choice does seem to affect aggressive and irresponsible driving patterns
  • Researchers of a 2013 study, published in the journal Ergonomics, affirm mellow music can be the remedy to road rage: “During high-demand driving, abrupt changes in music led to more physiological calmness and improved driving performance and were thus safer and more effective …”

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted the last comprehensive nationwide driver violence study; it found:

  • Over the seven-year period of study, 12,500 injuries and 218 deaths – mostly deliberate murders – were caused by road-raging drivers
  • Half of drivers who admitted road rage were not the initiators of altercations, rather, indignant drivers lashing out in response to another motorist’s actions

Mental health profile of a road rage driver

A 2016 report confirms risky drivers are more prone to crashes and relative driving violence. They also hold a similar mental profile, which includes:

  • Immediate gratification personality characteristics
  • Less of a spike in stress hormone cortisol in the heat of the moment
  • Any amount of substance misuse: presently or previously
  • High sensation seeking traits
  • Detrimental decision making tendencies
  • Disinhibition
  • Risk taking

Anger management solutions while driving

A simple YouTube search on road rage will illustrate endless clips of drivers yelling and gesturing through open windows; and more often than not, jumping out of vehicles to confront another motorist.

  • When angry, go on lock down: stay buckled, keep the windows up an doors locked, and stay in the vehicle
  • Immediately turn on or hum calming tunes

Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph.D., revealed his latest road rage research this past spring. He created relaxation and imagery interventions based on data collected from self-reported “high-anger drivers.” Deffenbacher’s mental wellness maintenance methods include:

  • Basic relaxation techniques such as deep breathing
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) modalities
  • Reframing negative events

The Sovereign Health Group utilizes CBT along with other brain wellness tools for all our treatment tracks: mental health, addiction and dual diagnosis of co-occurring conditions. Together with alternative therapies such as neurofeedback, gym exercise, yoga, equine and art therapy, we work to heal an individual from within, for lasting recovery. Call our 24/7 helpline to learn how we customize treatment for each person.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at

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