When anonymity meets anger | The Star w/Prof. Ryan Martin
In a hurry the other day, I drove through a yellow light and was almost T-boned by someone approaching from the opposite direction making a left-hand turn. Honestly, I was in the wrong — a fact the other driver made clear by blaring his horn. I knew it was an unsafe move, a calculated risk I took in the blink of an eye because I was stressed out and rushing. Thankfully, the other driver did not pull a U-turn and pursue me.
Extreme? Perhaps, but according to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of reckless and aggressive driving have been on the rise. And you don’t have to look hard to find fresh examples of road rage across the country.In early February, a Calgary motorist shot another driver around 8 a.m. after two drivers got into what police called “a verbal altercation.”
In a fit of road rage last summer, a man in Lethbridge, Alta., used a golf club to smash another driver’s car window. Last April, a man in Walkerville, Ont., was arrested after he pulled a gun on another driver. And on it goes.
What is happening here? Did these people always have violent tendencies, or were they regular citizens pushed to the brink? And if it’s the latter, what is it about driving that brought out the monster in them?
If you wanted to create a scenario that makes people mad, that scenario would look a lot like driving,” said Dr. Ryan Martin, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who researches anger and aggressive driving.
Martin said what triggers anger under any circumstances is a combination of three things: provocation, our mood at the time of that provocation, and how we interpret that provocation.
“Those three things come together in a way to create angry feelings.” And driving in traffic, he said, provides a perfect storm for these conditions to coexist.