A Theory About Road Rage

Road rage happens for two reasons (mainly):

  1. Driving vehicles is dangerous, and
  2. Driver interactions are impersonal

When someone cuts us off in the grocery store with their shopping cart it’s annoying, but not that upsetting. Aisle rage isn’t common. It’s not common, because it’s not dangerous and it’s face to face (easier to say sorry).

If your mother cut you off in traffic you’d likely be upset (because it’s dangerous), but you’d get over it in an instant once you realized it was her (you know that she would say sorry if she could).

If a stranger does it, you’re much more likely to pound your horn and give them the finger. There’s limited opportunity for them to effectively communicate with you. So you assume the worst about them.

If it happened with a shopping cart they would have a chance to say “excuse me” or “sorry about that”. If they didn’t say anything, you’d probably be annoyed, but not overly upset (because it wasn’t dangerous). And you’d be less likely to chastise them, because it’s more personal when it’s face to face.

Some people will still be upset even if the other person apologizes, because it’s still too impersonal for them (they aren’t willing to empathize in that moment).