In LA, road rage is the worst it’s been in a decade and has become more violent. In 2019, the number of incidents involving a gun was about 100. In 2022, there were more than twice as many. The news outlet Crosstown arrived at those stats after local number crunching.
So why is road rage increasing? Americans are under more stress and anxiety stemming from the COVID pandemic and economic worries, says Ryan Martin, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. He argues that it may be a symptom of a larger anger problem brewing across America.
Martin says driving has always been filled with the perfect storm of potentially-angering scenarios: “When you are driving somewhere, you are, pretty much by definition, on your way somewhere. So someone interfering in those goals is inherently frustrating.”
He adds that subconsciously, drivers may also constantly be anxious. That’s because handling a vehicle is dangerous and the actions of others — such as speeding and recklessnesss — can impact us personally.
“That recklessness that we see from other drivers means something different to us, because it means that that person might be putting our lives in danger, or they might be putting someone else we care about … in danger,” Martin says. “When you can't see the person [in a car], you can't identify with them the same way. You don't have a sense for who they are, what kind of person they might be. And that anonymity actually influences how we respond in those situations.”
So who’s the most susceptible to road rage? Martin suggests people who have a competitive nature and narcissistic personality traits.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of road rage, Martin recommends to not engage.
“It's very rare that I give never-do-this advice, but one of the things I would just never do is find ways to tell other drivers how angry I am at them. Don't honk. Don't give them the finger. Don't be passive-aggressive or slow down in front of them. I think, honestly, the best thing to do is just let them go on their way. It is simply too dangerous an activity to try, and not to make light of it, but to try and play games with people who are engaged that way.”