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A Communicative Approach to Road Rage: Accounts of Driving and Retaliation
Unformatted Document Text:  Road Rage 7 aggression, anger, and violent behavior. Shinar’s (1998) argument is not without its detractors, however. For instance, Dukes et al. (2001) claimed that reckless and aggressive behavior of other drivers produced more road rage than “impending traffic” or congestion (p. 327). However, both Dukes et al. and Shinar agree that a consistent link exists between frustration and aggressive driving. Many scholars believe that the cause of the problem is not the result of simple structural factors or personality factors; rather, the crisis is a result of both “road” and “rage.” Lupton (1999) stated that “explanations of ‘road rage’ must go beyond discussions of the increasing number of cars on the roads, the degeneration of driving conditions because of poor or insufficient roads, and resultant longer commuting times” (p. 58). Lupton (1999) argued that it is the special, unique relationship that has recently developed between car and driver that is the deeper cause for the aggression and rage evident on the roads today–we now turn to this issue. Unique Relationship Between Car and Driver Lupton (1999) argued forcefully that if road rage is ever to be reduced or controlled, the special relationship between the driver and the car must be studied and understood. She calls this relationship “the embodied ontology of driving” (p. 58). Ferguson (1998) also understood the relationship drivers have with their cars: “Driving is a curious combination of public and private acts. A car isolates a driver from the world even as it carries him [or her] through it” (p. 4). Once a person is secured in his or her car, a “merging of boundaries” occurs between the car and human–drawing a distinction between the ‘animate’ and the ‘inanimate’ and the ‘human’ and the ‘non-human’ becomes a casualty of the driving experience (Lupton, 1999, p. 58-59). Further influenced by advertisements that promote the underlying assumption of total freedom when driving and the personalities of the cars we buy, drivers anthropomorphize their cars and the car becomes as inviolable as the self (Lupton, 1999, pp. 59-60). This leads to a special sense of territory that one has with the car. Drivers feel assaulted when other cars come close–a distinct sense of invasion leads to aggressive and angry forms of territorial defense rarely seen in other public situations (Lowenstein, 1997, p. 266; Lupton, 1999, p. 64; Ruback & Juieng, 1997). Drivers will act territorial even when it is at odds with their goals (such as getting somewhere on time) or values (the belief that it is better to overcome evil with

Authors: Canary, Daniel., Mikkelson, Alan., Switzer, Frank. and Bailey, Carrie.
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Road Rage 7
aggression, anger, and violent behavior. Shinar’s (1998) argument is not without its detractors, however.
For instance, Dukes et al. (2001) claimed that reckless and aggressive behavior of other drivers produced
more road rage than “impending traffic” or congestion (p. 327). However, both Dukes et al. and Shinar
agree that a consistent link exists between frustration and aggressive driving.
Many scholars believe that the cause of the problem is not the result of simple structural factors or
personality factors; rather, the crisis is a result of both “road” and “rage.” Lupton (1999) stated that
“explanations of ‘road rage’ must go beyond discussions of the increasing number of cars on the roads, the
degeneration of driving conditions because of poor or insufficient roads, and resultant longer commuting
times” (p. 58). Lupton (1999) argued that it is the special, unique relationship that has recently developed
between car and driver that is the deeper cause for the aggression and rage evident on the roads today–we
now turn to this issue.
Unique Relationship Between Car and Driver
Lupton (1999) argued forcefully that if road rage is ever to be reduced or controlled, the special
relationship between the driver and the car must be studied and understood. She calls this relationship “the
embodied ontology of driving” (p. 58). Ferguson (1998) also understood the relationship drivers have with
their cars: “Driving is a curious combination of public and private acts. A car isolates a driver from the
world even as it carries him [or her] through it” (p. 4). Once a person is secured in his or her car, a “merging
of boundaries” occurs between the car and human–drawing a distinction between the ‘animate’ and the
‘inanimate’ and the ‘human’ and the ‘non-human’ becomes a casualty of the driving experience (Lupton,
1999, p. 58-59). Further influenced by advertisements that promote the underlying assumption of total
freedom when driving and the personalities of the cars we buy, drivers anthropomorphize their cars and the
car becomes as inviolable as the self (Lupton, 1999, pp. 59-60). This leads to a special sense of territory that
one has with the car. Drivers feel assaulted when other cars come close–a distinct sense of invasion leads to
aggressive and angry forms of territorial defense rarely seen in other public situations (Lowenstein, 1997, p.
266; Lupton, 1999, p. 64; Ruback & Juieng, 1997). Drivers will act territorial even when it is at odds with
their goals (such as getting somewhere on time) or values (the belief that it is better to overcome evil with


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