Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
“Those days of soda and pretzels and…” road rage?
That’s right. Road rage.
Summer had no more arrived last weekend than a Wilton man exited his car to smash the passenger-side window of another vehicle on the Stroffolino Bridge in South Norwalk.
With construction work narrowing two lanes to one, a shouting match had ensued over one driver’s refusal to allow the other to merge. When the first driver threw something at the other’s car, the second driver got out and smashed her window. Both drivers were arrested.
’Tis the season for road rage. While incidents can and do occur year-round, researchers have long observed a connection between rising temperatures and rising tempers.
Aggressive and violent behavior of all kinds spikes in hot weather, a phenomenon known as the heat hypothesis.
Not only road rage, but car crashes, murders, assaults, and thefts occur more often during heat waves, studies have shown. The hotter the summer, the higher the crime rate.
It’s no mystery why this is so. High temperatures make us cranky, and crankiness makes us more prone to aggressive behavior, including but not limited to tailgating, speeding, blocking the passing lane, cutting off other drivers, and overusing high beam headlights.
In one classic study, done in Phoenix, Ariz., where temperatures ranged from 86 to 116 degrees, researchers documented a direct correlation between increased horn honking and increased temperatures.
Last weekend’s incident in South Norwalk typifies the conditions under which road rage most often occurs: moderately congested traffic in an urban setting, on a Friday afternoon during summer.
Road rage is far from uncommon. A 2016 American Automobile Association study found that 80 percent of the drivers surveyed experienced or exhibited some form of road age within the year. More alarming, the results suggested road rage prompted about 8 million U.S. drivers to engage in such extreme behavior as ramming another vehicle or getting out of a car to confront another driver.
And while this may come as no surprise to those who frequently travel Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway, drivers in the Northeast were 30 percent more likely to have made an angry gesture than drivers in other parts of the country.
Earlier research by AAA found that more than half of all fatal crashes between 2003 and 2007 involved at least one driver acting aggressively.
While it’s normal to experience frustration and anger behind the wheel, AAA advises tolerance. Try not to take another driver’s behavior personally, and be quick to apologize before an encounter turns violent.
Other tips include avoiding eye contact and refraining from making gestures. Drive in the right or middle lane, pass on the left and don’t tailgate. Signal well in advance of a turn, don’t block an intersection, and refrain from abrupt lane changes.
If someone follows you after an encounter, drive to the nearest police station.