Dec. prime time for road rage, study says

Book identifies 3 types of aggressive drivers

December 26, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ST. LOUIS -- The festive spirit might be alive in a lot of places, but it's not easy to spot behind the wheel.

There are fights over parking spots. Bad weather. Slowpokes. Speed demons. December has it all.

"Increased congestion equals increased frustration, which equals increased aggression," said Tara Galovski, assistant research professor of psychology at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. "The classic aggressive driving situation particularly occurs during this time of year."

Galovski studied motives behind aggressive driving in her new book, Road Rage: Assessment and Treatment of the Angry, Aggressive Driver.

Road rage has slipped out of the spotlight in recent years. A random survey of police departments shows that they don't keep a record of road rage cases. The federal government doesn't track its prevalence at all

But road rage does significantly increase the chance of a wreck, Galovski said. So it pays to know who is out there.

Galovski identified three types of aggressive drivers in her research. She worked with aggressive drivers who volunteered to take part in her study, and some who were required by a court to participate.

One group, the "soccer moms," becomes aggressive when someone interferes with their tight schedules, Galovski said. For them, the road becomes a place of anonymity where they act out their aggression.

There are also those who have impulse control disorders. They can't stand the idea of not being in control, she said. Cut them off in traffic, and they lose it.

Then there are drivers with antisocial personalities. This driver is already driving angry, she said.

"We were surprised by the level of aggressive driving," she said. "We got people who had wielded guns, who terrorized drivers on the road. It's a little alarming."

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