Generally speaking, road rage occurs when the driving of another brings on an act of impulsive violence from the perpetrator. It is not a disorder in itself, but it is often prompted by the existence of conditions such as substance abuse or personality disorder (Lilienfield, Lynn, & Lohr 97). Moreover, the range of acts typically viewed as instances of road rage, as well as the variety of circumstances, renders the subject difficult to address in a meaningful way; the driver speeding is seen as reflecting road rage through careless disregard, just as the enraged driver deliberately striking another vehicle is expressing road rage. The problen then contains problems within it, in terms of perception and definition, and modern legislation is then conflicted in regard to addressing road rage. More precisely, individual states are increasingly seeking to differentiate aspects of it, and create measures to deal with aggressive or reckless driving and road rage separately (Eberle 124). The key is in determining intent when actual violence occurs on the roads, and this is difficult to prove in an arena wherein recklessness is triggered as an emotional response to frustrating driving conditions (Eberle 124). These difficulties notwithstanding, however, the reality remains that road rage is an increasing problem, and a danbgerous one. No matter the presence of intent, road rage is held to be responsible for half of all traffic fatalities (AAA), tougher laws are required, and issues of degree and intent must not be permitted to stand in the way of an effective solution.
No meaningful redress of road rage may be had through a reliance upon, or undue attention to, public perceptions and varieties of definition. As legislation issues reinforce, seeking to moderate penalties because of lack of intent cannot assist in ending the problem. It is interesting that, as surveys reveal eight out of ten drivers expressing concerns over road rage as inevitably dangerous behavior, the same proportions of drivers confess to exceeding speed limits and driving in ways that are inherently aggressive (AAA). This indicates a public divided as to assigning culpability, certainly in terms of such assignments as impeding its own actions. Consequently, it is incumbent on the law to devise and enforce strict and consistent penalties for any aggressive mode of driving likely to endanger the driver or others. Moreover, such laws must be applied on a federal level, to limit states’ ability to moderate the punishments.
This solution of harsher punishment is the only reasonable approach because it reflects the rationale behind a similar crime, that of drunk driving. In the latter, intent is rarely present, and the offense is determined as such by virtue only of the driver’s ignoring of their responsibilities behind the wheel. The drunk driver caught is a serious threat, just as is the aggressive driver, and there can be no allowances for poor judgment as causing the dangers in either case. Such laws for road rage will merely reinforce the reality confirmed by drunk driving statutes, in that there is no reasonable excuse for driving when the driver is not in control of their abilities. Laws must be written, then, and on a federal level, that demand strict penalties for the reckless and aggressive driving typically defining road rage.
Harsh laws, it may be felt, are not the answer, because there can be no way of regulating the emotional states of drivers. All such laws would accomplish is severe punishment on an ever-changing population of drivers. While there is some validity to this, it ignores the reality that the proposed laws are the only means by which road rage may be prevented, as measures which, like drunk driving statutes, reinforce to all drivers the innate responsibility they undertake. The solution is not ideal, by any means. Nonetheless, it serves to move the society more to an understanding long absent and necessary, that of driving being a privilege, and not a right. Traditionally, only legislature has the necessary impact to reverse deeply embedded ideas contrary to the public good, ranging from the Civil Rights movement to drunk driving penalties.
Road rage is responsible for half of all driving deaths, strong legislation is needed, and degree and intent must not be permitted to stand in the way of this effective solution.
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Aggressive Driving. 2013. Web.
- Eberle, P. Terror on the Highway: Rage on America’s Roads. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2006. Print.
- Lilienfield, S. O., Lynn, S. J., & Lohr. J. M. Science and Pseudoscience in Clinical Psychology. New York: Guilford Press, 2012. Print.