Road Rage – a reflection of the stressed nation we are

Road Rage – a reflection of the stressed nation we are

September 4, 2018

Road rage is internationally on the rise, mainly because of increased traffic congestion, insufficient infrastructure, drinking-and-driving and inadequate policing.

In South Africa there are additional factors which make our roads more dangerous than elsewhere in the world, says Dr Jopie de Beer, CEO of JvR Africa Group. One of these factors relate to the ‘state of our nation’. A recent Bloomberg study shows SA to be the second most stressed country out of 74 nations, with Nigeria in the top stressed position. El Salvador, known for its brutal gang wars, is third.

The political temperature in the country needs attention. Our driving is a major reflector of who we have become.

Driving realities in SA
Ordinary South Africans have to contend, almost on a daily basis, with hijackings, smash-and-grab incidents, taxi wars and service delivery protests, where roads are blocked, and traffic disrupted.

The incidents of road rage – aggressive driving (speeding, tailgating, cutting in), extreme bouts of swearing, hooting, gesturing, shouting abuse, threatening, and physically assaulting people – have become the norm.

Dr De Beer says the character of the driver is probably the most important factor in trying to understand road rage.

Pressure-cooker road rage
It is a progressive condition that starts with anxiety and stress, but builds up to a pressure-cooker situation where irritation turns into anger. When the pressure cooker blows, the vehicle becomes a very dangerous weapon. “The emotional blow-out overshadows reason, and angry and irrational actions follow.”

These drivers are ‘emotionally hijacked’ and use the vehicle to spite, harm or damage. However, they are still able to acknowledge that their driving is dangerous.

“They are still in control and can own up to their responsibility as a road user by checking themselves on the intensity of their progressive anxiety.”

Rule breaking, hostile road rage
Some people enjoy the adrenaline of fast and dangerous driving. They are always in a hurry, and they easily become agitated when other drivers frustrate them. If, added to this, they are naturally angry and hostile, they reject authority and rules, and really do not care about others, one has the “Molotov cocktail” for road rage.

“The car becomes a deadly weapon, and the car reflects their power in what they consider to be their territory, which may start out to be the car, but could extend to their road, passengers, route, city, country, and their right to eliminate competition,” says Dr De Beer.
Using a vehicle to harm others or get back at them and to release their rage, surely is criminal or even possibly pathology? “One could however wonder at which stage in the progression of the condition one would classify it as a disease”, says Dr De Beer.

Cultivating socially competent drivers
Research by the JvR Africa Group confirms that drivers who ignore and violate traffic regulations, do cause more accidents than those who comply to road rules.

It is also confirmed that those drivers who have low self-discipline, and blame others for everything – referring to their attitude – are more likely to have accidents.

The converse is also true – those drivers who own up to their mistakes, show empathy for others, and have self-discipline, are better drivers with lower risk of creating accidents.

It is advised that drivers should be screened for their character, and social and emotional skills, before providing them with a license.

A caring society
Government must address inadequate infrastructure, road density, compliance and policing. If traffic is a dipstick of our society, we need to be more considerate, respectful, and law-abiding.

The country needs an effective system to ensure that those who exhibit road rage feel the consequences of their actions.