Driving aggression, rage and anger are learnt by children from the back seat of your car. Children are not passive passengers; children observe, listen and internalise your swearing, angry gestures, aggressive actions, disparaging remarks about other drivers and your cutting put-downs as well as your anxiety, nervousness and substance abuse.

Children are conditioned to an in-car environment of high levels of speed and our national pre-occupation of ‘me first’.

We serve as role models for our children; we present them with a distorted picture of what is dangerous and what is not. Our aggressive driving causes children to grow up to become ‘normal’ aggressive drivers who ignore the traffic laws and are a risk to other road users.

Children are exposed to aggressive driving in movies, in computer games and on TV. These electronic heroes erode the future drivers social responsibility and lowers their threshold for putting others in danger (see the Driver Assess blog – What is aggressive driving – Part 1: Looking a lot closer to home).

Aggressive driving is endemic in SA and it is increasing. Aggressive driving is a learnt behaviour which is being passed on from one generation to another and, as our society becomes more lawless, one of the first places we see evidence of increased aggression, is on our roads.

New legislation such as AARTO will put pressure on drivers to modify their emotions and behaviour when driving. It is unlikely that the authorities will introduce driver re-education programmes to enable drivers to make the required changes; it will be up to drivers themselves to do so. The most effective way of dealing with aggressive driving is to become aware of your high(er) risk emotions and behaviours and change them via conscious driving; Driver Assess will give you the edge here.

Aggressive driving is the outcome of routinely driving in an emotionally impaired state (James & Nahl, 2000). Not being aware of and not having the ability to manage one’s high(er) risk feelings, emotions and behaviours prevents one from being able to change aggressive behaviours into behaviours that serve; that is because we are not conscious of our repeating, high(er) risk behaviours.

This lack of awareness ranges from mild to severe. Emotions which impact our objective perception can diminish our self control and impair our judgement. Emotional impairments associated with aggressive driving include:

  1. Driving under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, medication;
  2. Driving under the influence of anger and rage;
  3. Driving under the influence of fear or panic;
  4. Driving whilst stressed;
  5. Distracted driving – use of cell phones and in-cab infotainment systems;
  6. Speeding and addiction to risk;
  7. Driving vigilantism;
  8. Habitual rushing, hurrying and driving under self imposed time pressures;
  9. Habitual disrespect for the law and law enforcement officers;
  10. Habitual disrespect for other road users and biase against specific groups of road users;
  11. Lack of awareness and inability or refusal to see or acknowledge one’s own driving flaws.

Driving is dangerous and emotionally challenging. Risks are all around us on the road and when the traffic is congested the stresses of driving are exacerbated because of time pressures and the increased ‘variety’ of drivers on the road, some of whom are less competent than others.

Driver imposed ‘rules of the road’ are harsh, competitive and often hostile. Many find these conditions challenging and may have difficulty coping, particularly when threatened by an aggressive driver. It is no wonder that many drive in an emotionally impaired state.

Emotionally compromised drivers take increased chances, become compulsive, they give in to behaviours that in other circumstances they would not dream of doing, and they do not consider the impact they are having on their passengers or other road users.

It can be a jungle out there. You owe it to yourself and the next generation of drivers in your back seat to ditch the aggressive behaviours you have and are not aware of. Driver Assess enables you to find out if you have high(er) risk feelings, emotions and behaviours; if you do, to pay them some attention, decide what you want to replace them with and then practice, consciously, every time you drive.

Take responsibility for your own driving habits and your emotional state of mind, look out for others and let’s make the generational transfer of driving emotions and behaviours one that eliminates aggressive driving from our roads.

Emotions drive people, people drive cars.


Aggressive Driving is Emotionally Impaired Driving, 2000, Dr. Leon James & Dr. Diane Nahl, University of Hawaii
Mum in the Madhouse (photograph)

Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University (photograph)

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