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A Communicative Approach to Road Rage: Accounts of Driving and Retaliation
Unformatted Document Text:  Road Rage 2 A Communicative Approach to Road Rage: Accounts of Aggressive Driving and Retaliation Aggressive driving and road rage, although not necessarily new phenomena, have recently garnered attention as troubling social maladies. According to the United States Department of Transportation, of the 250,000 traffic deaths and 20 million traffic injuries that occurred between 1990 and 1996, nearly two-thirds were “at least partially caused by aggressive driving” (Iowa Department of Transportation, 2000). Incredibly, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that of the more than 41,000 traffic deaths in 1997, two-thirds “were the result of road rage” (Altman, 1998). Moreover, according to the NHTSA (2002), people in the United States now perceive aggressive driving and road rage as bigger threats to their safety than drunk drivers. Other surveys reveal that a majority of drivers believe people's driving behavior has recently changed for the worse, nine out of ten drivers have experienced driver aggression by others, and most people feel increasingly threatened by aggressive drivers (Ferguson, 1998; Harding, Morgan, Indermaur, Ferrante, & Blagg, 1998; Iowa Department of Transportation, 2000; Shinar, 1998). Not surprisingly, aggressive (vs. nonagressive) drivers are involved in far more accidents and are willing to engage in much riskier behavior (Lowenstein, 1997; Matthews, Tsuda, Xin, & Ozeki, 1999). Confrontation that would not occur elsewhere happens on the roads (Harding et al., 1998; Parker et al., 1998; Shinar, 1998). Message encoding and decoding become difficult for many people once they are inside a car, and manifestations of anger and aggression rise in novel ways. A new term has even been trumpeted in regard to this issue: driving anger is defined as the more frequent and intense anger that people experience only while driving a car (Deffenbacher, Oetting, & Lynch, 1994, p. 84). Because drivers are armed with their vehicle while experiencing their anger, far too many dangerous situations arise out of daily commutes. A review of the relevant literature demonstrates that although aggressive driving and road rage are serious problems, more research is needed if these phenomena are to be understood and addressed from a communicative point of view. At least two major problems exist with current research in this area. First, most of the studies have been done outside of the United States. Although similarities in drivers’ attitudes and actions no doubt exist, cultural and circumstantial differences might pertain. Therefore, generalizing

Authors: Canary, Daniel., Mikkelson, Alan., Switzer, Frank. and Bailey, Carrie.
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Road Rage 2
A Communicative Approach to Road Rage: Accounts of Aggressive Driving and Retaliation
Aggressive driving and road rage, although not necessarily new phenomena, have recently garnered
attention as troubling social maladies. According to the United States Department of Transportation, of the
250,000 traffic deaths and 20 million traffic injuries that occurred between 1990 and 1996, nearly two-thirds
were “at least partially caused by aggressive driving” (Iowa Department of Transportation, 2000).
Incredibly, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that of the more than
41,000 traffic deaths in 1997, two-thirds “were the result of road rage” (Altman, 1998). Moreover,
according to the NHTSA (2002), people in the United States now perceive aggressive driving and road rage
as bigger threats to their safety than drunk drivers. Other surveys reveal that a majority of drivers believe
people's driving behavior has recently changed for the worse, nine out of ten drivers have experienced driver
aggression by others, and most people feel increasingly threatened by aggressive drivers (Ferguson, 1998;
Harding, Morgan, Indermaur, Ferrante, & Blagg, 1998; Iowa Department of Transportation, 2000; Shinar,
1998). Not surprisingly, aggressive (vs. nonagressive) drivers are involved in far more accidents and are
willing to engage in much riskier behavior (Lowenstein, 1997; Matthews, Tsuda, Xin, & Ozeki, 1999).
Confrontation that would not occur elsewhere happens on the roads (Harding et al., 1998; Parker et
al., 1998; Shinar, 1998). Message encoding and decoding become difficult for many people once they are
inside a car, and manifestations of anger and aggression rise in novel ways. A new term has even been
trumpeted in regard to this issue: driving anger is defined as the more frequent and intense anger that people
experience only while driving a car (Deffenbacher, Oetting, & Lynch, 1994, p. 84). Because drivers are
armed with their vehicle while experiencing their anger, far too many dangerous situations arise out of daily
commutes.
A review of the relevant literature demonstrates that although aggressive driving and road rage are
serious problems, more research is needed if these phenomena are to be understood and addressed from a
communicative point of view. At least two major problems exist with current research in this area. First,
most of the studies have been done outside of the United States. Although similarities in drivers’ attitudes
and actions no doubt exist, cultural and circumstantial differences might pertain. Therefore, generalizing


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