Getting a Grip on Roadway Anger
WebMD News Archive
Deffenbacher, whose work is funded by the CDC and the National Institute on
Drug Abuse, is now studying the effects of treatment on students who drink and
The paper is very interesting but preliminary, says Richard Wetzel, PhD,
professor of medical psychiatry and psychology at Washington University School
of Medicine in St. Louis. He tells WebMD that in some respects, the studies are
unrealistic. "These are not real patients; these are students from a
psychology class ? people who are bright, they're willing to admit that have a
problem, they have insight into it. ? They haven't been referred by the courts
for treatment, which is very different."
"These [relaxation] therapies are helpful in that they make people feel
like someone is dealing with them," Mitchell H. Messer, MA, LPC, who
established the Anger Clinic in Chicago three decades ago, tells WebMD.
However, Messer adds that "these are people whose anger issues have not
been dealt with for 19 years."
"My bias is that they are not addressing the deeper underlying issues
like they should," Messer says. "It's typical of anger management
thinking in this country. ? It seems to be based on the premise that people get
angry after they get in the car. Our finding is that they've been angry for
[many] years. And that driving in the car reactivates and ignites angers of
long standing that have not been identified or relieved."
Getting people to question their belief systems is critical to treating road
rage, says William H. Mueller, PhD, professor of behavioral sciences at the
School of Public Health at the University of Texas in Houston. He says
relaxation training may not have this effect.
"You need to raise people's awareness about their thinking," he
says. "What are the real consequences of a person grabbing my parking
place? You need to get people thinking about the greater scheme of
- Drivers who are hostile are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, get
into accidents, and have speeding violations.
- People who experience road rage can express it in many forms, from
attacking other drivers to allowing anger to ruin their personal lives.
- Two types of anger management programs shown to be effective in reducing
the intensity and frequency of anger while driving are relaxation therapy and
cognitive relaxation therapy.