Anger on the streets: 4 stages of road rage and top triggers

  • Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 25, 2016 13:40 IST
Aggressive driving usually occurs when a driver perceives that he has been wronged. (Shutterstock/ Representative photo)

What is it about New Delhi’s roads that makes some people angry enough to kill?

That question will be asked again after a 40-year-old dentist was beaten to death by a group of people, who allegedly fought with him when their motorcyle brushed past him.

Most people think of road rage as violent assault, but it also includes tail-gating, abrupt lane changes, speeding and verbal threats.

There are four stages of road rage, and it often doesn’t take very long for the situation to escalate from the first to the fourth stage. The four stages are:

Stage 1: Non-threatening gestures, which prompt the driver to pull a face or use a rude gesture to show annoyance.

Stage 2: Aggressive driving usually occurs when a driver perceives that he has been wronged by someone cutting in or hitting and driving away. It is marked by tail-gating, honking, blinking lights, malicious braking, blocking other vehicles, etc.

Stage 3: Threatening behaviour; such as cursing, yelling and threatening as a result of a traffic-related dispute. This may involve people stepping out of their vehicle and confronting the other driver.

Stage 4: Direct confrontation with weapons, firing gunshots, hitting vehicles with objects, chasing a vehicle, and trying to run a vehicle off the road. All these are criminal offences.

A 2014 survey of Facebook users by researchers at Lady Hardinge and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences showed that younger drivers, particularly men, are more likely to experience road rage. This finding is supported by previous studies that have found young male drivers are three times more aggressive than older drivers, resorting to reckless, faster, and dangerous driving, which raises the chances of road rage.

Road rage is usually a result of several factors, some extraneous and some personal, found study of 500 drivers aged 18 to 60 years in Delhi and the NCR in 2011. Frequent jams, poor traffic management and aggressive driving reasons have been cited for irritation.

The traffic police have been perceived as mainly interested in challans, found the study led by Dr Sameer Malhotra, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Healthcare .

Almost all the people surveyed said they had witnessed at least one incident of road rage. And all chose not to intervene. “Earlier this year on a visit to Delhi, I saw a man violently abusing and threatening to beat up a young man on a bike with his wife, but my driver refused to stop and I didn’t insist we do because the situation looked potentially explosive,” said Faizal Ahmed, who works with a multinational in Mumbai.

“I still feel guilty, I had wanted to help, but I find it hard to deal with the aggression on Delhi roads,” said Ahmed.

The aggression is growing and making driving one of the top causes of daily stress , with most people finding it impossible to keep calm on roads where few follow traffic rules. “More than 80% of the people surveyed felt there was an urgent need to improve the traffic situation and wanted the Traffic Police to make its presence felt in a positive way,” said Dr Malhotra.

“Avoiding confrontationist situations, lowering distractions like cellphone use, listening to calming music helps lower stress on the roads, but if you still find ourself driving at boiling point, you must consider anger-management therapy.”

Top triggers for road rage

1.Frequent traffic jams, too many vehicles on the roads.

2.Medley of traffic on the roads. For example, slow- and fast-moving traffic in the same lane; cycles and two-wheelers weaving between buses and cars.

3.People not following traffic rules. For example, drivers in vehicles that need to turn right block the free left turn; driving the wrong way; taking illegal turns.

4.No synchronicity between traffic lights. The timing of traffic lights is often not synchronised or rationalised, forcing drivers to wait for several minutes despite there being no traffic at all; roads with heavy traffic having a very short green signal.

5.Traffic stopped, re-routed or roads blocked without prior notice because of VIP movement, demonstrations or rallies.

6 . Annoying drivers, who weave through traffic, honk unnecessarily, abuse and make rude gestures.

7. People parking illegally by the roadside and creating bottlenecks.

8.Stress from personal reasons, such as mobile calls, getting late to your destination, work pressure.

9.Jaywalkers, people weaving through traffic, beggars and hawkers at traffic signals.

10.Poor condition of roads, unexpected and bumpy speed breakers (for example, at the end of an underpass).

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