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A Communicative Approach to Road Rage: Accounts of Driving and Retaliation
Unformatted Document Text:  Road Rage 21 media attention that road rage has received. Media attention has focused on extreme instances of road rage (Hennessy & Wiesenthal, 1999) and has warned the public of the increasing dangers of road rage. The few dissenting voices that have attempted to dispel public fears have gone largely unheard (Fumento, 1998; Overberg, 1999), perhaps because of the more widespread media attention to road rage and the continued escalation of radically dangerous behaviors on the road. On the other hand, anger and fear are associated emotions. Lupton (1999) stated that anger is a “displacement of our anxiety about traveling in such dangerous vehicles” (p. 65). Thus, road rage may be explained, at least in part, by the danger involved in driving. In addition, some research has shown that people who view driving as a stressful event are more likely to engage in road rage (Hennessy & Wiesenthal, 1999). Because sequences in road rage behavior involved competitive and intimidating behaviors, road rage can be seen as an exchange of dangerous symbols. Consequently, people are willing to use their cars “to teach that guy a lesson.” Although anonymity has been labeled a contributing factor to road rage (Ellison, Govern, Petri & Figler, 1995; Lupton, 1999), most drivers take the behaviors of other drivers as personal attacks. Lupton (1999) addresses the incongruity of anonymity and feelings of personal encroachment by asserting that because drivers believe that their bodies have somehow merged with their cars, a sense of violation occurs when any car invades the driver’s sense of expanded private space (p. 70). Consequently, the anger that occurs when space is invaded, coupled with anonymity felt by the driver, often leads to the escalation of the road rage episode. It is interesting that the curious dichotomy of anonymity and taking road events personally, when combined, make for a potentially dangerous situation. Competitive and intimidating behaviors were most often followed by anger in the respondent. That competitive and intimidating behaviors were followed by anger can be explained by perceptions of the other driver gaining an unfair advantage on the road. Furthermore, such behaviors often create a dangerous situation that infuriates other drivers. Intimidating behaviors are perceived as dangerous behaviors and/or the invasion of space by the other driver, often causing the recipient to become angry. After being angered by an initiating incident, most participants subsequently reacted with competitive and intimidating behaviors or aggressive communication. When angered, most people tend to respond aggressively in order to rectify

Authors: Canary, Daniel., Mikkelson, Alan., Switzer, Frank. and Bailey, Carrie.
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Road Rage 21
media attention that road rage has received. Media attention has focused on extreme instances of road rage
(Hennessy & Wiesenthal, 1999) and has warned the public of the increasing dangers of road rage. The few
dissenting voices that have attempted to dispel public fears have gone largely unheard (Fumento, 1998;
Overberg, 1999), perhaps because of the more widespread media attention to road rage and the continued
escalation of radically dangerous behaviors on the road. On the other hand, anger and fear are associated
emotions. Lupton (1999) stated that anger is a “displacement of our anxiety about traveling in such
dangerous vehicles” (p. 65). Thus, road rage may be explained, at least in part, by the danger involved in
driving. In addition, some research has shown that people who view driving as a stressful event are more
likely to engage in road rage (Hennessy & Wiesenthal, 1999).
Because sequences in road rage behavior involved competitive and intimidating behaviors, road
rage can be seen as an exchange of dangerous symbols. Consequently, people are willing to use their cars
“to teach that guy a lesson.” Although anonymity has been labeled a contributing factor to road rage
(Ellison, Govern, Petri & Figler, 1995; Lupton, 1999), most drivers take the behaviors of other drivers as
personal attacks. Lupton (1999) addresses the incongruity of anonymity and feelings of personal
encroachment by asserting that because drivers believe that their bodies have somehow merged with their
cars, a sense of violation occurs when any car invades the driver’s sense of expanded private space (p. 70).
Consequently, the anger that occurs when space is invaded, coupled with anonymity felt by the driver, often
leads to the escalation of the road rage episode. It is interesting that the curious dichotomy of anonymity
and taking road events personally, when combined, make for a potentially dangerous situation.
Competitive and intimidating behaviors were most often followed by anger in the respondent. That
competitive and intimidating behaviors were followed by anger can be explained by perceptions of the other
driver gaining an unfair advantage on the road. Furthermore, such behaviors often create a dangerous
situation that infuriates other drivers. Intimidating behaviors are perceived as dangerous behaviors and/or
the invasion of space by the other driver, often causing the recipient to become angry. After being angered
by an initiating incident, most participants subsequently reacted with competitive and intimidating behaviors
or aggressive communication. When angered, most people tend to respond aggressively in order to rectify


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