Nfld. & Labrador

Road rage in same realm as being impaired at the wheel, says psychologist

Whether people are eating, sipping coffee, or are talking on their cellphones, road rage is a consistently growing problem.
Registered psychologist Kyle Handley says based on the research he's seeing, the #1 trigger of road rage is people noticing other drivers who are distracted at the wheel. (Twitter/@MattPikeNL)

Many safety advocates believe aggressive driving is a big issue that's not going away. 

It's a startling statistic, but it's estimated that one in three Canadians is a victim of road rage at least one a month. 

It could be as mild as having a finger flipped at you or as major as being forced off the road. 

Registered psychologist Kyle Handley told CBC Radio's Cecil Haire that road rage is a growing problem.

"I think it's become more prevalent, and a little more noticeable — there's certainly been more coverage around it. It's a really dangerous behaviour," Handley said. 

"I think it's something in the same realm as driving impaired or driving distracted on a cell phone, in that realm of dangerous driving behaviours. So, we need to do something to make sure we're being as safe as we can on the roads."

80 per cent of Canadians experience road rage

 Handley said that 80 per cent of Canadians experience some form of road rage at some point in their lives, adding there are a number of triggers that can set people off.

Kyle Handley said that 80 per cent of Canadians experience some form of road rage at some point in their lives. (Cecil Haire/CBC)

"The number one trigger we're noticing in the research is people noticing distracted drivers," he said.

"So, if they see people on their cell phones, [they] see people eating, anybody that's not attending to the road, it tends to get other drivers very upset."

Handley said unexpected delays from construction areas or accidents are also factors.

"A big contribution is the driver's stress level, before they even get in the car," he said.

"Maybe they're having a bad day, or there's something going on at work, and they're already a little bit revved up. So that unexpected delay just kind of tips them over the top."

Remove yourself emotionally

In terms of how to best cope with aggressive drivers behind the wheel, Handley said the onus is on drivers to manage their emotional reactions while in the car.

Handley recommends using relaxation techniques and removing yourself emotionally from the situation.

"Things like taking some deep breaths, turning on the radio just to distract yourself from the event that just happened, thinking of family or friends ... things you're going to be doing once the drive is over," he said. 

"Don't change your driving behaviour and get out of a driving pattern that's safe. Staying within the speed limit — and not speeding up and responding to the intimidation is important."