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Why do people experience road rage?

You accidentally cut someone off while merging onto the interstate. You checked your mirrors, but the car came up faster than you realized. The driver had to tap the brakes to keep from rear-ending you. Knowing you should have waited, you wave your apologies and feel happy you did not get in an accident.

Suddenly, that driver accelerates around you and cuts you off, nearly hitting you. You see him or her screaming out the window on the way by. You try to slow down, and the driver slams on the brakes, forcing you to veer to the side. Then, the driver cuts you off again, clipping the front of your car, and you both spin out into the wall.

You can't believe it. How could someone get so angry and intentionally put both of your lives in danger? You have heard of road rage before, but you have never seen it happen like that.

A serious issue

Aggressive driving, experts note, leads to tens of thousands of car crashes each year. One study also indicated that more than 50 percent of drivers have experienced road rage. Clearly, even if this was your first encounter with dangerous road rage, it's a serious issue to today's motorists.

Overcrowding

One potential reason is simply overcrowding. As the population continues to expand, roads get more and more crowded. This is especially true during rush hour. More cars and drivers mean the potential for more mistakes and chances for road rage to percolate.

Experts also studied rats to find out how they naturally responded to overcrowding. It may not surprise you to learn that aggression surged in rat populations when too many lived in the same cage. Could drivers on crowded roads, in gridlocked traffic, feel this same sense of internal aggression?

A sense of disconnect

There is also a level of disconnect that comes from being in a car. That other driver sees your vehicle, but not you. People feel anonymous and separated. If they were talking to each other face-to-face, they may never say some of the things they'll yell from a car.

Drivers who are prone to road rage also tend not to think about the bigger picture. They get frustrated that a van cut them off, for example, but they do not think about how the person driving that van could be a parent with four kids in the car. They don't think about endangering lives in all the vehicles around them if they cause a chain-reaction accident. Again, they just see vehicles, not people.

Injuries and accidents

If you do get involved in a road rage accident, make sure you understand all of the legal options you have, especially if you suffer serious injuries in the crash.

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