A Brief History of Road Rage

We Aussie’s don’t like to dwell on the negative but with the ever increasing stupidity and anger on our roads, it is important that we stay alert to the dangers that road rage represents to us and our families. It is also important that we have an understanding of why and how easily it can occur.

The term “Road Rage” was first used in the mid 1980’s after a series of shootings on Free-ways in the American city of Los Angeles California in 1987 and 88. The term Road Rage was coined by newsmen from the Los Angeles TV station KTLN and is now used all over the world to describe angry and aggressive behaviour of people behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.



Road rage is never nice but there are varying degrees of it ranging from hand gestures to murder and everything in between. The use of Dash Cameras or Car DVR’s has brought road rage sharply into focus in the public arena like never before. There are often weekly reports on A Current Affair or Today Tonight and these reports make people more aware of the ever present danger they and their families face.

In the US there was a move in the late 1990’s to certify Road Rage as a mental disorder but it is more likely to be bad behaviour and loss of control while in charge of a motor vehicle.

A study of over 9000 people, which was representative of the nation, was funded by The National Institute of Mental Health and labelled road rage “Intermittent Explosive Disorder”. The study found that up to 7% of the population of the USA had the disorder. This percentage is higher than the better know mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Intermittent Explosive Disorder involves multiple outbursts that are out of proportion to the situation. These angry outbursts often include threats or aggressive actions and property damage. The disorder typically first appears in adolescence; in the study, the average age of onset was 14.

Hmmm, multiple outbursts out of proportion to the situation…. This describes the perpetrators of Road Rage down to a T. Sometimes the actions that cause the antagonist to lose it completely can be so minor that it just leaves you wondering what went wrong.

A 2005 Australian Government conference paper by Russell G Smith named “Measuring Road Rage” defined it in the following way – “Road Rage is one of those notoriously difficult concepts in crime and justice. In some respects it is like an elephant, easier to recognise than it is to define!” 

Mr Smith was no doubt correct in one respect but Car Black Boxes or Dash Cams as we know them were unheard of in 2005. When you are on the receiving end of it, Road rage is not at all hard to define if you are able to provide video evidence or definitive proof from a Car Dash Camera recording away in your car.

A recent study in Australia found that the majority of motorists believe that Australian drivers are becoming more aggressive. Insurance company GIO surveyed over 3700 people, 85% say that drivers are more aggressive than ever before. According to the study, Brisbane drivers are the worst while Sydney drivers are the best behaved. This may be a result of the heavy penalties and Jail terms for road rage in NSW.

The NSW result may also in part, be attributed to the fact that more people are using In Car Cameras as a means of being able to prove their case in the event of a road rage attack.

The amazing statistic to come out of the study is that 88% of the people surveyed had been the victim of road rage while 10.1% of people had been forced off the road and 5.9% had their car damaged in the incident. I am sure you will agree that those figures are completely unacceptable.

The law makers in New South Wales takes a very dim view of road rage where it is an extremely serious offence. An offender can be charged with “Predatory Driving” which can result in a 5 year Jail term. There are also heavy fines of up to $100,000 and loss of licence. Where people are hurt or their vehicles are damaged, whether it was intentional or not, charges and penalties can be much heavier.

In Queensland, road rage is also know as a term to describe “Violence Associated with Motor Vehicle Use”.

It’s time other Australian States follow the NSW lead and made road rage a very serious offence because citizens going about their daily lives will not face many more dangerous situations than a lunatic on their tail in a vehicle travelling at over 100 kph.

Do yourself and the rest of us a favour, do not get into your car if you feel angry, aggressive or depressed. You may make yourself feel worse than you already do and think twice before you abuse your fellow road users as you can cause irreparable damage to others.

Your actions may change yours or someone else’s life forever.



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