Roadway frenzy

Anna Duszkiewicz

Nichole Schmelz and her mom were driving home one day when a car suddenly pulled out in front of theirs, nearly causing an accident. Schmelz, a sophomore fashion merchandising major, honked at the driver.

“He slowed way down, and both of the people in the car stuck their hands out of the car windows and flipped us the bird,” she said

Schmelz is not alone.


• Make every attempt to get out of their way.

• Do not challenge them by speeding up or attempting to hold-your-own in your travel lane.

• Wear your seat belt. It will it hold you in your seat and behind the wheel in case you need to make an abrupt driving maneuver and it will protect you in a crash.

• Avoid eye contact.

• Ignore gestures and refuse to return them.

• Report aggressive drivers to the appropriate authorities by providing a vehicle description, license number, location, and if possible, direction of travel.

• If you have a cell phone, and can do it safely, call the police.

– National Highway

Traffic Safety Administration

Aggressive driving has become a serious problem on roadways, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The practice of driving aggressively is not new, but it now seems more widespread and even acceptable in today’s fast-paced society, according to the NHTSA.

Some students use the terms road rage and aggressive driving interchangeably.

Freshman exploratory major Michelle Toth said the two are interchangeable.

“I guess they’re pretty much the same thing,” Toth said.

But most experts agree the terms are not the same.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), road rage involves a criminal act of violence, while aggressive driving can range from tailgating to speeding to running red lights.

Stevan Hobfoll, professor of psychology and director of the Applied Psychology Center and the Summa-KSU Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress, said road rage does not happen primarily due to stress, and it occurs in a small subset of people.

“Road rage occurs in people who have a problem with anger management,” he said. “They have a way of thinking that gives them permission to act in an aggressive manner toward others when they’re angry.”

Hobfoll said when those individuals are under stress, they are more likely to commit road rage acts.

For that reason, Hobfoll said, it’s dangerous to react to an aggressive driver.

Freshman business management major Troy Gunnoe said he often reacts to aggressive drivers.

“When people cut me off, I pass them and flick them off,” Gunnoe said, “Then I get in front of them and slow down just to make them mad.”

Hobfoll said reacting in that way may lead to escalation.

“The person cutting you off may be the person with the anger problem,” he said. “If you retaliate, he escalates, and now you have a situation that might move from dangerous to catastrophic.”

He said it helps to think of a car as a loaded gun.

“If you’re aggressing against someone with a loaded gun, it might escalate to quite dire consequences,” he said.

Hobfoll said it doesn’t usually get to that point because one of the two people disengages short of truly dangerous behavior.

“It’s natural to have angry feelings when people aggress against us and endanger us,” he said.

Hobfoll said the trick is to think about the consequences of retaliation.

He said someone under stress might be more prone to reacting to someone aggressing against him or her.

“As stress increases, our natural inhibitory mechanisms decrease,” he said.

An inhibitory mechanism is what keeps a person from acting out of anger, Hobfoll said.

He said people should do things they find to be naturally stress-reducing for themselves.

“Listen to music you really like and sing along with it; count to ten,” he said.

Hobfoll said drivers need to think about their emotions and concentrate on calming down before getting behind the wheel.

He said if a person has had a bad day, it’s helpful to postpone the stress reaction until later by thinking about driving as a task.

“You should think, ‘I have an important task right now. I have to drive on this road with all these other crazy drivers,'” he said. “‘But when I get home, I will talk to friends about the problem, or have a glass of wine.'”

Contact features reporter

Anna Duszkiewicz at [email protected].