Road rage refers to the feelings of extreme anger and hostility expressed while driving, coupled with the desire for retaliation against other drivers. Interestingly, people who control their feelings and emotions the entire day have been found to experience out of control feelings of hostility when offended by a driver on the road.

Studies have shown that people who show aggression behind the wheel have a stronger physiological response to stress than their less aggressive colleagues. Similar studies have identified two types of highway drivers:

  1. High anger drivers who report as much or more than driving anger than three-quarter of their counterparts, and,
  2. Low anger drivers who report no more anger than one-quarter of their counterparts.

The higher anger drivers are more likely to drive aggressively and cause more accidents. We are all vulnerable to road rage. Very often, road rage comes about as a culmination of the negative events of the day. Often, the aggressive driver has had a bad day. He may have probably left home after a quarrel with his wife. While driving to work he gets arrested by local government officials for not wearing his seatbelt and was detained for an hour or two. He had to cough out some money to bail himself. You can bet that he is set up for a bad day at work. Going back home in the evening other motorists will be well advised to stay clear.

It is believed that most road rage results from some other stress made worse by any type of “poor driving.” You will find such kinds of drivers you on the Nigerian highways (they are not all males by the way), and they are particularly a majority in the city of Lagos. You will do well to avoid confrontations with such drivers. Besides, these groups of people are potential “killers” on the highway, and a confrontation could degenerate to a physical assault all challenge, especially with some of the danfo drivers high on drugs and alcohol.

Some of the things you may wish to avoid are certain highway irritants that provoke road rage. These include tailgating. This means driving so closely to the vehicle ahead in a bid to pressure the driver to move faster or get out of the way. Interestingly, drivers tend to be very protective about their “space.” A recent study found that motorists move significantly slower when they are where that another driver is tailgating them. They seem to say, “I have the space now, and I won’t move faster. Do your worst!” Driving slowly on the fast lane seems to be conveying a similar message. Other highway irritants include:

  • flashing lights to signal persons to move to another lane
  • obscene gesturing
  • blasting the horn
  • changing lanes without signalling
  • weaving in and out of traffic
  • racing to beat a traffic light
  • driving with the high beams on behind another vehicle or towards an oncoming vehicle
  • slowing down after passing someone
  • not reacting quickly after the red light turns green.

It is best to avoid becoming a victim of a road rage. You need to be aware of your driving habits and how they appear to others, even innocently.

How do you keep your sanity while driving?

  1. Be empathetic towards an aggressive driver rather than try to pay him back in the same coin. Don’t interpret the action as a personal assault. Don’t take traffic personal! He is probably just unleashing his frustration on other road users. I must say that this particularly includes the motorcycle riders (okada) on Lagos roads.
  2. Lend to unwind while driving. Play good music that will put you in a good mood.
  3. Be diplomatic while driving. It does not take anything to plead for space in front of another road user. I realise that even the aggressive driver tends to mellow when you raise your hand as a gesture of appeal. Brute force could only be counter-productive especially in a case in which your vehicle brushes the other person’s. At the end of the day, after counting the cost of delay and the tension created, and possibly the money that will have to be expended, and the dent on your car, it is not worth it any way you look at it. Imagine getting into a struggle with a molue driver on the road. What you may get at the end of the day is a crowd of about 70 people (the passengers) pleadingly you or cursing you. Remember two wrongs do not make a right.
  4. Contrary to what you think, what you had interpreted as an aggressive behaviour on the road may have been a mistake from the person concerned. We all made mistakes on the road, it doesn’t matter experience you are. Mistakes of faulty judgements, faulty manoeuvres, etc.
  5. Refuse to allow your mood to be dictated by the acts of an unpleasant or discourteous action. Why get angry because a driver/rider stopped to poor curses on you. That would be a waste of emotional energy. Work on being able to just let go of angry feelings in traffic with the goal of maintaining your serenity.
  6. Realise that you are not a law enforcement agent. It is not your responsibility to make people toe the line on the highways. Set a positive example for others. It is unfortunate that this is not the case in many instances. I see seemingly respectable people follow the danfo drivers or in some cases take the lead, in using the shoulder to beat the traffic. This is quite unfortunate and should be discouraged.

I wish you many more years of happy driving. Drive responsibly, drive safe and stay alive.


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