Road rage is bad - for your own health
Adrenaline and stress hormones are stimulated during 'fight or flight' situations, harming the body over time
LONDON - Research in the United States has confirmed what many people may have suspected: Road rage is very dangerous to your own health.
Road rage - the irrational surge of anger towards another motorist - can be triggered by many causes, such as tailgating, cutting people off or the 'theft' of a parking space.
The response varies, from shouting or a rude gesture to a full confrontation outside the vehicle, sometimes with fatal results.
Now research has found that the initial aggressive stimulation is very harmful to the body, especially if it recurs, traffic psychology professor Leon James of the University of Hawaii told BBC News.
'When you are angry, you are pouring stress hormones into your blood system which are harmful to your heart...,' he said.
'So if we experience this kind of anger or impatience in driving every day, all our lives, you can see that over the years it's going to have a very strong negative health effect on the driver.'
The problem stems from the fact that road rage places the driver in a 'fight or flight' situation.
Both adrenaline and stress hormones are stimulated and the muscles are prepared for a fight.
In some cases, motorists then get out of their cars and attack one another.
In the US, a fight on the roads happens 1,200 times every year.
Road rage may be worse in developing countries, where roads and vehicles are in poor condition.
Prof James has been working with the Chinese government to reduce road rage among truck drivers, eight million of whom are on the roads every day.
'This year, over two million people around the world are going to die in traffic accidents,' he said.
Studies have shown that drivers consistently overestimate their own driving skills while believing other road users to be less adequate.
Besides, a car lends a driver a sense of being in a private, near-indestructible space.
These factors combine to make road rage an increasing phenomenon as more cars get onto the roads.
Transport psychology professor Steve Stradling of Napier University said: 'When you're angry, you tend to lose concentration; you're likely to...drive faster; you're more inclined to be rude and hostile to other drivers.'
Interestingly, research has also found that there is little difference between men and women regarding their emotional reaction to being treated badly in traffic.
'In a car, it's the power of the car which matters, not the muscles,' said traffic psychologist Timo Lajunen.