Causes of road rage and how to avoid a violent encounter while driving

Posted at 5:43 PM, Dec 07, 2023

GENOA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Livingston County prosecutor is trying to determine who will be charged in a road rage encounter that turned violent after both drivers exited their vehicles on Latson Road near Grand River on Tuesday.

Investigators initially reported that one driver got out of his car and "attacked a 66-year-old Genoa Township man."

It's one of a number of recent road rage incidents that turned violent.

On a Detroit freeway recently, two women pulled over on the side of the freeway and one stabbed the other.

And there have been incidents where one person fatally shoots another driver.

Michigan State Police 1st Lt. Michael Shaw says the number of violent encounters we've seen isn't surprising.

"I think the biggest problem that we're seeing is people just don't know how to de-escalate anything," Shaw said. "... not only in driving, but people are getting in arguments and then next thing, a handgun is involved."

Research from GoodRx Health identified some of the possible causes of road rage:

1. Being prone to anger. In general, research in the U.S. suggests that those who are more prone to anger in general tend to carry that into their driving. However, there are also situations where people who are typically cool and calm get angry on the road.
2. Feeling anonymous behind the wheel. One possible reason people show their anger while driving is due to anonymity. They may feel more free to express their rage since no one knows who they are.
3. Dealing with stress emotionally. One recent study in Israel compared coping styles to how people responded when driving. Those who tended to deal with stress by problem-solving were less likely to have road rage. Those who usually responded emotionally to stress were more likely to get angry while driving.
4. Having a mental health condition. Those with road rage may also have psychological conditions such as alcohol use disorder or a mental health condition. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that mental health problems always lead to road rage.
5. Getting stuck in traffic. Traffic situations may also trigger more aggressive behaviors among those prone to road rage. For example, running late and traffic congestion can lead to speeding.

Shaw says to never pull over or get out of your vehicle in a road rage encounter. If you're concerned or in fear, he said don't be afraid to call 911.

"We're seeing speeds now on the freeway in the hundreds where we never saw before and that's leading to the where someone is impatient that they're pulling up behind a car, flashing their lights. And then somebody engages with them and next thing you know, somebody is pulling out a gun."