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A Communicative Approach to Road Rage: Accounts of Driving and Retaliation
Unformatted Document Text:  Road Rage 8 good) (Ruback & Juieng, 1997). Drivers begin to relate to others on the road as “machines” even though the driver understands his or her own humanity (Lupton, 1999, p. 63). Lowenstein (1997) noted that studies show aggressive drivers often dehumanize their victims. Case studies and police reports of road rage incidents often have aggressors and victims describing the events not in terms of what the other driver did, but in terms of what the other car did, as if it was the car that was in control of the situation (Lupton, 1999). In a seemingly prophetic statement, Dannefer (1977) described the relationship between car and driver accordingly: “If the modern world is characterized by impersonality, detachment and non-involvement, driving may well be the prototypically modern act. The motorist is physically isolated and individuated from other motorists: cooperation is made problematic by this fundamental condition” (p. 37). Lupton (1999) summarized these implications of the relationship between car and driver: When other car/drivers invade our space, appear to put us in danger, when they touch our hybrid bodies with their own or yell at us, our sense of being in a private space within a public space is violated. No longer cocooned in our secure world, separate and autonomous, we become drawn into hostile relations with others. Our sense of ontological security is undermined; ... (p. 70) Research on attributions that people make for road rage causes indicate that people tend to hold other drivers responsible for road rage episodes, even though both people engage in similar behaviors. That is, negative attributions abound regarding all other drivers while most people see themselves as excellent drivers (Parker et al., 1998; Shinar, 1998). One indicator of these negative attributions concerns the tendency for people to engage in acts of territorialism more readily in their cars than in other public situations (Lowenstein, 1997; Lupton, 1999; Ruback & Juieng, 1997). Such territorialism suggests that people enlist negative attributions in a familiar self-serving manner to protect themselves against others. The popular Los Angeles bumper sticker “Cover me while I change lanes!” is a literal plea: people genuinely want assistance in dealing with drivers who turn to violence as a way to manage traffic conflict. As the review of literature shows, the causes and factors associated with road rage are of great interest to researchers, though this research has emphasized personality factors and individual differences to

Authors: Canary, Daniel., Mikkelson, Alan., Switzer, Frank. and Bailey, Carrie.
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Road Rage 8
good) (Ruback & Juieng, 1997).
Drivers begin to relate to others on the road as “machines” even though the driver understands his or
her own humanity (Lupton, 1999, p. 63). Lowenstein (1997) noted that studies show aggressive drivers
often dehumanize their victims. Case studies and police reports of road rage incidents often have aggressors
and victims describing the events not in terms of what the other driver did, but in terms of what the other car
did, as if it was the car that was in control of the situation (Lupton, 1999). In a seemingly prophetic
statement, Dannefer (1977) described the relationship between car and driver accordingly: “If the modern
world is characterized by impersonality, detachment and non-involvement, driving may well be the
prototypically modern act. The motorist is physically isolated and individuated from other motorists:
cooperation is made problematic by this fundamental condition” (p. 37). Lupton (1999) summarized these
implications of the relationship between car and driver:
When other car/drivers invade our space, appear to put us in danger, when they touch our hybrid
bodies with their own or yell at us, our sense of being in a private space within a public space is
violated. No longer cocooned in our secure world, separate and autonomous, we become drawn into
hostile relations with others. Our sense of ontological security is undermined; ... (p. 70)
Research on attributions that people make for road rage causes indicate that people tend to hold
other drivers responsible for road rage episodes, even though both people engage in similar behaviors. That
is, negative attributions abound regarding all other drivers while most people see themselves as excellent
drivers (Parker et al., 1998; Shinar, 1998). One indicator of these negative attributions concerns the
tendency for people to engage in acts of territorialism more readily in their cars than in other public
situations (Lowenstein, 1997; Lupton, 1999; Ruback & Juieng, 1997). Such territorialism suggests that
people enlist negative attributions in a familiar self-serving manner to protect themselves against others.
The popular Los Angeles bumper sticker “Cover me while I change lanes!” is a literal plea: people
genuinely want assistance in dealing with drivers who turn to violence as a way to manage traffic conflict.
As the review of literature shows, the causes and factors associated with road rage are of great
interest to researchers, though this research has emphasized personality factors and individual differences to


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