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Aggressive Driving Behavior, Anger Reduction Treatment
Anger Management: Treating Road Rage - 6 CEUs

Section 2
Effects of Driver Behavior

Question 2 | Test | Table of Contents | Anger Management
Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we examined myths that road rage Anger Management clients connect to road rage:  temperature; character; and sex.

I have found that when an Anger Management client experiences road rage, it is because he or she feels that one of his or her rules of the road is being violated and not respected. If you haven't thought of this, observe this possible behavior in your next session. Anger Management clients who have predetermined ideas about acceptable behavior while driving will be more likely to experience rage when another driver appears to be violating these rules. When an Anger Management client hays such beliefs, he or she is even more prone to rage as anger will appear in even non-aggressive environments. 

On this track, we will present these four beliefs and how they relate to your Anger Management client.  These four beliefs are: making good time; being number one; not letting the other driver get away with it; and certain drivers should not be allowed on the road.

Treating 4 Road Rage Beliefs of Anger Management Clients

Belief #1 - Making Good Time
The first rule we will discuss is making good time. Your Anger Management client with this rule probably believes that getting to his or her destination as fast as they can is the most important part of driving. Anger will result when the self-prescribed time limit cannot be met. That driver who appears to be impeding the your client from his or her goal becomes the object of rage.  A person making a wrong turn, a slow-moving pedestrian in a cross-walk, a stalled vehicle blocking the lane, road construction or any other obstacles can bring on a quick rage

In most cases, when a driver steps out of his or her car to take action against another driver, they begin to think more clearly and less aggressively. However, many times Anger Management clients will take the altercation a step further into violence.

However, this was not the case with Terry. Terry was a dump-truck driver and a court-ordered Anger Management client of mine.  One day, he was driving a full load that was to be taken to the city dump. Although there was no deadline for the load to be at its destination, Terry had taken it upon himself to get across town in under fifteen minutes. 

When a car in front of him stalled in the middle of the lane, Terry became furious. He stated, "I was thinking to myself, ‘Who the hell stops in the middle of the lane?  I got to get somewhere damn it!’  I felt like the guy was trying to piss me off." Terry then jumped out of the truck with a steel bolt in his hand and began to beat on the trunk of the other driver’s car. When another driver began to yell at him, Terry jumped back into the truck and sped away. Eventually, he was found and fined for the damage to the other driver’s car and court ordered into Anger Management. 

As you can see, Terry had felt that his rule was being disrespected.  Not only did this affect Terry’s anger, but also his self-esteem.  When an Anger Management client feels that he or she is not being respected, often this increases their self-image of being worthless or evil.  Are you currently treating a Terry who uses the concept of "Making good time" and reason for acting out?

Belief #2 - Being Number One
The second rule is being number one.  Again, this reverts back to a source of self-esteem.  Many Anger Management clients will seek out contests on the road and essentially try to "beat" their opponent in whatever the challenge may be.  This could include street racing, merging, or even whose lane is moving faster.  Being number one on the road is one more victory clients can put towards their self-esteem. 

Francis, a 23 year old Anger Management client, had an extremely competitive streak.  One day, Francis was on a four-lane highway, when he saw another car that was the same make, model, and year of his own car.  To prove he was the better handler of the car, Francis pulled up next to the other driver and, through gestures, challenged him to race.  The other driver refused, and Francis became angry.  He stated, "I mean, was I not good enough for his preppy ass?  He thought he was hot shit." 

Francis then began tailgating the other driver, provoking him to go faster. He also turned on his highbeams into the other car’s back windows. Finally, the other driver pulled off onto an exit and Francis continued on his way. 

As you can see, this competition that Francis had concocted was, in his mind, and opportunity to prove himself superior.  Does a road rage client of yours have to be number one?

Belief #3 - Not Letting the Other Driver Get Away with It
In addition to making good time and being number one, the third rule is not letting the other driver to get away with it.  Many clients in Anger Management feel that self-esteem would be lost if they gave in to a demanding driver.  To keep the other driver from "winning", clients will do everything in their power to frustrate the aggressive driver or to reciprocate the behavior in an attempt to "give them a taste of their own medicine". 

Another Anger Management client in the group, Melanie, age 19, was driving on a public road when another driver behind her began to tailgate her. The road was double-lined, so the other driver could not pass her.  Becoming frustrated, Melanie saw the tailgating as a personal attack and, as her self-esteem fell, her anger rose. Finally, when the other driver passed her, Melanie sped up and began to tailgate him.  Eventually, both drivers were pulled over by a state trooper for speeding.

Belief #4 - Certain Drivers Should Not Be Allowed on the Road
The last rule is one that holds that certain drivers should not be allowed on the road.  This could include the sex, race, or age of the driver. Clients feel that this rule is violated when their own standards of proper driving are not met, such as speeding or merging. Nathan was a 23 year old client of mine who I was treating for Anger Management. 

Nathan related this story to me, "Well, I hate it when some bonehead won’t pull over and let me pass.  If he can’t drive my speed, get off the road, right?  So, anyway, there was this guy, who was definitely Mexican, he had all that Mexican flag shit on his car. Not only would he not pull over, he actually slowed down in front of me. I was livid. I shot by him on the right and then cut him off, forcing him to almost veer off the road.  Then he got on my tail and drove so close I couldn’t see his headlights. No matter how fast I went, even over ninety, he stayed there.  Finally, I’d just had it, and I reached back in the backseat for my shotgun.  I took the shells out, rolled down my window, stuck the shotgun out, and started waving it at the wetback.  He definitely got out of my way after that." 

Obviously, this kind of behavior seems unwarranted, but to Nathan at the time, it seemed the only way to right a wrong.  Have you asked your road rage client if they carry weapons in their car?

Technique:  Redefining Your Rules
To help Anger Management clients like Terry, Francis, Melanie, and Nathan with their road rage, I had them try "Redefining Your Rules".  For each rule they held, I asked them to write a new one.  Terry, who held the rule "making good time", he wrote, "I do not have a set time limit.  I have all the time in the world.  Not everyone is subject to my schedule." 

Melanie, who is a born-again Christian, wrote, "Jesus says to turn the other cheek.  I do not have the right to treat other people in an aggressive manner or to get revenge.  I should forgive and forget."  Melanie even went a step further and decided to pray for any driver who drove aggressively.  I asked these Anger Management clients to clip their rule onto their visor in the car so that they would be able to see it. 

Think of your client who holds "rules of the road".  Could he or she benefit from "Redefining Your Rules" and clipping it to his or her visor?

On this track, we discussed four predetermined rules of the road and how they relate to Anger Management clients: making good time; being number one; not letting the other driver get away with it; and certain drivers should not be allowed on the road.

On the next track, we will examine the role of self-esteem in Anger Management clients and road rage:  anger; inappropriate goal-setting; and replacing the source of self-esteem.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Braly, A. M., Parent, M. C., & DeLucia, P. R. (2018). Do threats to masculinity result in more aggressive driving behavior? Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 19(4), 540–546.

Brewster, S. E., Elliott, M. A., McCartan, R., McGregor, B., & Kelly, S. W. (2016). Conditional or unconditional? The effects of implementation intentions on driver behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 22(1), 124–133.

Kaß, C., Schmidt, G. J., & Kunde, W. (2019). Towards an assistance strategy that reduces unnecessary collision alarms: An examination of the driver’s perceived need for assistance.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 25(2), 91–302. 

Kuin, N. C., Masthoff, E. D. M., Nunnink, V. N., Munafò, M. R., & Penton-Voak, I. S. (2020). Changing perception: A randomized controlled trial of emotion recognition training to reduce anger and aggression in violent offenders. Psychology of Violence, 10(4), 400–410.

Sundström, A. (2011). Using the rating scale model to examine the psychometric properties of the Self-Efficacy Scale for Driver Competence.European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 27(3), 164–170.

Wickens, C. M., Wiesenthal, D. L., Flora, D. B., & Flett, G. L. (2011). Understanding driver anger and aggression: Attributional theory in the driving environment. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 17(4), 354–370. 

What are four rules that many Anger Management clients predetermine and often lead to road rage? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

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