Researchers hunt for the answers to road rage

HOUSTON – According to the American Safety Council, 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by road rage. From January through April this year, law enforcement agencies reported 107 road rage crashes in Harris County to the Texas Department of Transportation. Road rage at this point is synonymous with Houston traffic. Dangerous cases happening all the time, drivers not keeping their emotions in check and then taking their frustration out on the road.

Some of these instances turning deadly.

So, researchers at the University of Houston along with Texas A&M Transportation Institute went on the hunt for the answer to why people get road rage in the first place.

Researchers at the University of Houston’s Computational Physiology Lab say you may be experiencing what they call “accelerousal.”

Next time you feel that surge of uncontrollable anger while driving, take inventory of your emotions prior to getting behind the wheel. Experts say these emotions play a vital role in your reactions while on the road.

According to Dr. Ioannis Pavlidis, people losing their minds while driving is not anything new. He along with other researchers put their minds together to figure out why this happens. They used thermal imaging and hooked up drivers with an apple watch-like gadget that could pick up activity from sweat glands when driving to study stress levels, targeting the drivers’ paranasal perspiration, which kicks in like a facial fight or flight reaction.

What they found: a phenomenon called “accelerousal,” which is stress provoked by acceleration events, even small ones like driving. Arousal is a psychological term that describes stress. When these small stressful events add up, if you’re already in a negative space from work or personal life events, or are genetically prone to stress or anxiety-- chances are you’re going to explode when something goes wrong on the road.

This is what you can do before getting behind the wheel

  • Take a deep full breath as you’re walking to your car before you start driving.
  • Take inventory of your feelings. Are you angry? stressed? How was your day at work? Are you running late?
  • Driving is a full-time job-- all of these things can play a part in your highway behavior.

About the Author:

Traffic expert and What’s Driving Houston reporter, proud Latina, lover of animals, food and our beautiful planet.