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Road rage in SA: Are you a potential 'IED'?

2015-07-14 09:04

DON'T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: exercise self-control when dealing with an aggressive driver. You don't know the emotional state of your fellow road users... Image: Shutterstock

CAPE TOWN, Western Cape - Road rage is referred to as "incidents of angry and aggressive driving," reports Arrive Alive.

Arrive Alive said: "It is defined as an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger/s of one motor vehicle on the operator or passenger/s of another vehicle, or is caused by an incident that occurred on a roadway and considered a criminal offence."

By that definition any expression of anger on the road (i.e waving your arms, shouting at other road users) could be deemed as road rage.


Psychologist Dr Jacques Van Zyl focuses on road behaviour and road-rage propensity.

Van Zyl says the term road rage has become the vernacular to describe any display of anger while driving. Angry or aggressive driving can range from mild displays of anger, such as not maintaining a safe following distance to the vehicle ahead, to more serious forms of violence, such as physical assault and vehicular homicide.

Watch: Crazy road-rage driver ramps on to Audi
He said: "A closer analysis of the term road rage renders the following - rage means to be in an extreme, energised state of anger which has accumulated and/or has been suppressed for some time, is triggered and now finds expression in rage-like behaviour.

"Rage leads to elevated self-esteem, adrenalin rushes, reduction of rational thought an increase in physical ability. A rage episode will only subside once the emotion has been spent."

Read: Wheels24 readers share their road rage stories

According to Van Zyl, typical uncontrolled rage behaviour would be:

   Excessive screaming and swearing

 •  Intense verbal abuse

 •  Serious threats

   Physical assault

He adds: "If this behaviour is exhibited on the road we can say that it is road rage."

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Van Zyl said that road rage has not been classified as a separate psychiatric illness.

He said: "In fact most psychiatrists call it Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), which is characterised by extreme expressions of anger up to the point of uncontrollable rage disproportionate to the situation.

"5% to 7% of the South African population suffers from this disorder and because it is associated with lower serotonin turnover rates in the brain, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is indicated for treatment.

"Genuine road-rage personalities also experience rage in other situations in their lives and this is congruent with the IED diagnosis. I believe that when ordinary road users who do not suffer from IED express anger on the road, it should be seen as normal behaviour i.e. angry or aggressive driving, and not road rage per se.

READ: 11 tips to help you survive road rage

Real road rage, which leads to the behaviour described above, is at the extreme of angry and aggressive driving:

Van Zyl said: "Although I argue that anger expressions such as hand-waving and staring aggressively at other road users on the road is normal human behaviour, I have to caution that self-control should be exercised as any anger-provoked situation  can quickly get out of hand and normally docile people can experience an acute episode of IED.

"One does not know the emotional state of the other person in the other car. Exercise self-control and restraint and do not get involved in any angry and aggressive driving incident."

Do you agree with Dr Van Zyl? How do you exercise self-control in the heat of the moment? Email us and we'll publish your thoughts on Wheels24.

Read more on:    arrive alive  |  road safety  |  road rage

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