Danger Behind the Wheel as Emotions Explode

-Rick Nauert, PhD

As Americans drive about the country on summer vacations, profound new research should give pause, or a warning, of behind the wheel behaviors. A newly released study finds that nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year.

The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers have engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver.

The study was performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Inconsiderate driving, bad traffic, and the daily stresses of life can transform minor frustrations into dangerous road rage,” said Jurek Grabowski, Director of Research for the Foundation.

“Far too many drivers are losing themselves in the heat of the moment and lashing out in ways that could turn deadly.”

A significant number of U.S. drivers reported engaging in angry and aggressive behaviors over the past year, according to the study’s estimates:

  • Purposefully tailgating: 51 percent (104 million drivers);
  • Yelling at another driver: 47 percent (95 million drivers);
  • Honking to show annoyance or anger: 45 percent (91 million drivers);
  • Making angry gestures: 33 percent (67 million drivers);
  • Trying to block another vehicle from changing lanes: 24 percent (49 million drivers);
  • Cutting off another vehicle on purpose: 12 percent (24 million drivers);
  • Getting out of the vehicle to confront another driver: four percent (7.6 million drivers);
  • Bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose: three percent (5.7 million drivers).

Nearly two in three drivers believe that aggressive driving is a bigger problem today than three years ago, while nine out of ten believe aggressive drivers are a serious threat to their personal safety.

Aggressive driving and road rage varied considerably among drivers:

  • Male and younger drivers ages 19-39 were significantly more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors. For example, male drivers were more than three times as likely as female drivers to have gotten out of a vehicle to confront another driver or rammed another vehicle on purpose.
  • Drivers living in the Northeast were significantly more likely to yell, honk, or gesture angrily than people living in other parts of the country. For example, drivers in the Northeast were nearly 30 percent more likely to have made an angry gesture than drivers in other parts of the country.
  • Drivers who reported other unsafe behaviors behind the wheel, such as speeding and running red lights, also were more likely to show aggression. For example, drivers who reported speeding on a freeway in the past month were four times more likely to have cut off another vehicle on purpose.

“It’s completely normal for drivers to experience anger behind the wheel, but we must not let our emotions lead to destructive choices,” said Jake Nelson, AAA’s Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research.

“Don’t risk escalating a frustrating situation because you never know what the other driver might do. Maintain a cool head, and focus on reaching your destination safely.”

Tips to help prevent road rage:

  • Don’t Offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction. That means not forcing another driver to use their brakes, or turn the steering wheel in response to something you have done.
  • Be Tolerant and Forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that it’s not personal.
  • Do Not Respond: Avoid eye contact, don’t make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle, and contact 9-1-1 if needed.

The research report is available on the AAA Foundation’s website and is part of the annual Traffic Safety Culture Index, which identifies attitudes and behaviors related to driver safety. The data was collected from a national survey of 2,705 licensed drivers ages 16 and older who reported driving in the past 30 days.

Source: AAA

What is the “Right Age” for Kids to Use Social Media?

5 rules for teaching young people use technology with dignity and respect

What is the “right” age for youngsters to begin texting and using social media? As the Mom of two young daughters and an educator on bullying prevention, I field this question frequently. Truly, there is great debate on the subject among professionals, along with a whole lot of hand-wringing by parents. As adults, we are all-too-aware of dangers online–both from anonymous predators and familiar “frenemies” who use the internet as a weapon. Indeed, social media sites are ripe for cyberbullying. Kids (and adults!) feel liberated to post cruel messages and taunts online without the discomfort of having to say to a peer’s face.

As with most aspects of child-rearing, there isn’t a simple one-age-fits-all guideline for starting to use social media or texting. From “safety” and “convenience” to the ever-urgent “all the other kids have them” rationales, ultimately, each family will make their own decision about what is “right” for their kids. In this day and age, almost every child will be exposed to technology sooner rather than later.

So, while I do not offer black and white answers to parents as far as “right ages,” what I do offer are suggestions for teaching kids how to use technology in ways that reflect family values and respect the dignity of their peers.

1. Choose Your Words Carefully

If you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, don’t send it via text or the internet. Technology makes it too easy to say things that are impulsive or unkind. Also, the person reading your message can’t see your expressions or hear your tone of voice. Sarcasm and humor often get lost in translation on the ‘net, so avoid their use. Type carefully as well; avoid using ALL CAPS since they make it look like you are angry or YELLING.

2. The Internet is Not a Weapon

Don’t gossip about other people while you are online. Your words can be misinterpreted, manipulated, and forwarded without your permission. Plus, it’s not fair to talk about people when they can’t defend themselves. Likewise, social media sites should never be used to strategically exclude peers who are “on the outs” of a peer group or to “de-friend” a person after a fight.

3. Who is this Message For?

What happens in cyberspace stays in cyberspace—forever! Though you may think you are sending your private message or photo to a single recipient, keep in mind that it can be cut, pasted, and forwarded to an infinite number of people. Never post a photo or message that you wouldn’t want “everyone” to be able to view.

4. Kindness Matters

Be kind and do not ever use email to say ugly, nasty, or mean things about anyone or to anyone. ANYONE. Ever! Stop and ask yourself, “What would Mom think if she read this?” Post accordingly!

5. Take it Slow

In this world of instant messaging and constant contact, you may be tempted to say whatever comes to your mind in a given moment. Don’t do it! Slow down and think before you post whatever thought, comeback, or reaction is on your mind–especially if you are feeling an intense emotion like anger or sadness. Wait until you have had a chance to think things through and cool your head before you post a message that can’t be taken back.

Signe Whitson is an author and international educator on bullying prevention, crisis intervention, and child and adolescent emotional and behavioral health.  For more information or workshop inquiries, please visit www.signewhitson.com and check out Signe’s latest book, 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools.

Venting My Anger

Myth: I shouldn’t “hold in” my anger. It’s healthy to vent and let it out.

Fact: While it’s true that suppressing and ignoring anger is unhealthy, venting is no better. Anger is not something you have to “let out” in an aggressive way in order to avoid blowing up. In fact, outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and reinforce your anger problem. It is however, healthy to talk through your feelings of anger with someone who can help calm you…someone who will not “stir the pot,” but help you see it from another angle or help you solve the problem. Who might this person be for you?

-Regina Tate, LPC