Road rage: how to stop it from happening and why it’s getting worse

A MANDURAH grandmother was assaulted in a vicious road rage attack last week.

Susan Craven was bitten, had her glasses snapped and then suffered a heart attack following the assault.

The attack is the latest in a series of cases locally and, according to Mandurah’s top cop, incidents of road rage are getting worse.

“People are becoming increasingly frustrated and aggressive and violent on the roads,” Senior Sergeant Glen Willers said.

“They are in such a hurry to get where they’re going that they get annoyed with vehicles they think are doing the wrong thing.”

The attack on Ms Craven last Friday is not the first time a road rage incident in Mandurah has made the news.

In June, in a car park in Falcon, it is alleged a 22-year-old Lake Clifton man rear ended a 19-year-old woman’s car.

When she got out of her car to speak with the man, police claim he reversed his car, pulled her underneath and ran her over.

She was admitted to hospital with serious injuries.

Snr Sgt Willers thinks it’s frustration that causes drivers to act this way.

“People have a clear vision where they want to get to and other drivers might do something to annoy them,” he said.

“But they need to remember that cars can be really dangerous sometimes.”

Health and community psychologist Marny Lishman said road rage is the fight response in the term fight or flight.

“It comes from a build up of energy that accumulates in a driver when they are angry and frustrated,” she said.

“The fight response then comes out as verbal or physically aggressive behaviour towards the person perceived as causing it.”

Dr Lishman said road rage was probably becoming more common because there were more people on the roads and because people were increasingly feeling stress in other areas of life.

“Stress has a cumulative effect. The more stressed out you are as a person, you will probably find that you can’t cope as well in other areas, such as driving,” she said.

“The more aggressive you are as a person, driving will probably exacerbate this.”

In Snr Sgt Willers’ experience, people are becoming increasingly violent.

In 2011, insurer GIO conducted a survey on road rage.

It found that 90 per cent of Perth drivers had been exposed to road rage in some form.

Survey respondents said congestion was a potential cause of road rage.

But with the latest high profile incidents of road rage in Mandurah occurring in car parks, it is obvious that congestion is not the only cause.

Generally, people don’t get stressed out about other people’s driving unless it affects them directly, Dr Lishman said.

“If someone’s driving is inconveniencing us and getting in the way of us not achieving what we want, then we will get stressed about it,” she said.

“You put an already stressed person in a car after a hard days work, and then something else stresses them out, then it might be the last straw for the day.”

Snr Sgt Willers reminded drivers that it was “silly” to commit acts of road rage, as their licence plate would identify them.

“We will investigate road rage incidents and we will charge people,” he said.

“They can be charged under the road traffic act for reckless or dangerous driving and then charged for assault.”

Meanwhile, Ms Craven remains in Fiona Stanley Hospital, all because she dared honk at a driver who cut her off.

Dr Lishman’s tips for beating road rage

– Deep breathing: taking in long deep breaths will actually turn off your fight or flight response and help calm you down.

– Music: try coming back to the moment and sing along with your music – both soft, relaxing music as well as loud, rock music have been shown to calm people down.

– Challenge thoughts: try and think of alternative explanations as to why someone is driving in an annoying way (maybe they are in an emergency, maybe they are unwell or maybe there is something wrong with their car). Understanding other reasons may help you calm down and realise it is not about you.

– Letting go: Getting angry at others in these situations does nothing positive for anyone in the scenario, so see if you can practice letting go. Firstly by being aware. Be aware of your anger building up and acknowledge that it is present. Secondly, don’t respond to it. Just observe it. Don’t react. Thirdly, make the decision to let it go. Lastly, go back to the present moment. Focus on what you are doing in reality. Go back to the present moment and concentrate on your driving or the radio.