Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
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Interventions for Reducing Road Rage
Stress and Time Management
Time management strategies may be helpful in countering driver stress and anger in individuals who do not manage their time well. Some individuals may continually place themselves at risk because they typically feel rushed and pressured in their driving. Thus, for these individuals it may be necessary to work on allowing for more time when driving and perhaps reevaluate the amount of time spent driving to and from work and/or other reasons for driving. How much driving is really necessary? Can alternatives such as carpooling or public transportation be used, at least on some occasions?
Deffenbacher et al. randomly assigned 57 high-anger drivers to the RCS, the CRCS, or a no treatment control condition. Compared with the no treatment control condition, both the RCS and CRCS interventions reduced driving anger, based on significantly lower DAS scores at post-treatment and 1-month follow-up. The researchers did note differential treatment effects, however, in that the RCS intervention resulted in greater driving anger reduction on three specific DAS subscales (Illegal Driving, Police Presence, and Traffic Obstruction), whereas the CRCS intervention resulted in greater reduction of risky driving behavior. Neither of the interventions had an influence on trait anger, anxiety, or general anger expression scores.
Deffenbacher and his coresearchers recently conducted another study, similar to Deffenbacher et al., except that they slightly modified the CRCS condition by incorporating explorative, Socratic style questions and behavioral experiments and tryouts adapted from Beck's cognitive therapy. As part of the cognitive restructuring process, for example, participants would be asked questions such as "What's another way of thinking about that situation?" (Socratic question) and "Can we identify a situation in which you can check that out?" (behavioral experiment and tryout). As in the previous study, a no-treatment control condition was included as a comparison group. Based on the responses from a sample of 55 high-anger drivers, both the RCS and CRCS interventions were found to reduce indices of driving anger, aggressive forms of anger expression while driving, and trait anger scores. Both interventions also increased adaptive and constructive ways of expressing anger while driving. Similar to the previous study, the CRCS intervention resulted in lower risky driving behavior.
Although the findings of both of the Deffenbacher studies are somewhat limited in their generalizability because they were done with college students and relied primarily on self-report data, they nonetheless demonstrate that relaxation and a combination of relaxation and cognitive restructuring interventions can be used to reduce driving anger. On a practical level, these interventions are fairly easy to learn and implement with individuals or small groups. Although the skills obtained may not necessarily generalize to sources of anger other than driving anger, cognitive-behavioral interventions can be effective in as few as four sessions, with court-referred as well as self-referred drivers, and can have relatively enduring effects.
Modification of Anger-Inducing Beliefs
Larson proposed that these five beliefs should be changed and substituted with less anger-producing ones. For example, it might be helpful to think of driving as worthwhile and pleasurable rather than viewing it as wasted time until arriving at one's destination. Rather than thinking about driving as a form of competition with a winner and a loser, it might be less anger-arousing to think about driving as a shared experience in which everyone must try to cooperate with one another to keep the roads safe. Larson also suggested that it can be helpful for angry drivers to admit that they have no power to control other drivers and that they should not feel a sense of entitlement when driving. He also pointed out that anger can be aroused if an individual becomes too focused on, and hypervigilant about, the habits of other drivers. An alternative way of thinking is that it is not worth the time and energy to look for things that one does not like.
The last three beliefs that Larson proposed should be modified are all based to some extent on "hostile attribution bias" described earlier in this article. Problems may arise when individuals misinterpret a situation and assume that another driver does something to them intentionally. Larson believed that it is important for anger-prone drivers who have a tendency to attribute hostile intentions to other drivers to remind themselves that bad drivers are not necessarily bad people and that the motives for bad driving are not always malicious. He suggested that instead of thinking that another driver is purposely aggravating or threatening, it can help to consider other possibilities, for example, that they may have good reason to be in a hurry. In general, it may be best to assume that there is always a good reason for the behavior of other drivers and not to assume that the driving behaviors of others are personally hostile.
Much like Larson's notion of changing anger-arousing driving beliefs, James and Nahl proposed that angry and aggressive drivers should unlearn adversarial attitudes associated with driving and learn to adopt a philosophy of "supportive driving." In contrast to an oppositional or overly defensive driving attitude that engenders suspiciousness and negative expectations of other drivers, a supportive driving philosophy promotes tolerance, mutual support, accommodation, and acceptance of diversity in drivers and driving styles. In many respects, individuals may benefit from applying the principles of Eastern philosophy to the experience of daily driving, such as those described in Berger's book Zen Driving.
Reflection Exercise #12