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Stress Management Health Center

Road Rage: Where Your City Ranks

New York Tops List of Rudest Drivers
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Road Rage Harmful to Health

Barry may have found the best solution to road rage. Giving up driving may not only be safer but could also make him healthier, says psychiatrist Chuck Raison, MD, clinical director of the Mind Body Program in the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“We know road rage is harmful to health, but it’s pervasive, especially in the biggest cities,” Raison tells WebMD. “Drivers are competitive. The stress can raise your blood pressure, foul up your immune system, and make you depressed. People don’t realize that getting all steamed up can make you blow a gasket. But it’s in our genes to take out our stress on something, and in a car, the subject of your anger is anonymous.”

Recession Worsens Road Rage

Richard Winer, MD, a psychiatrist who practices in Roswell, Ga., outside of Atlanta, says the economic recession has made his patients “much more stressed and more likely to talk about road rage.”

He says more patients are “describing symptoms of panic attacks” and “frustrating feelings that they lack control, that they feel trapped, scared, and just generally upset,” all of which have worsened since job security became a thing of the past and “everyone’s in a hurry to get there first.”

Mike Bush of Affinion Group, parent of AutoVantage, tells WebMD that there’s little question that the Wall Street crash played a role in New York’s rise to the top, and the sagging state of the auto industry must have been a factor in Detroit’s leap to third from the 11th spot last year.

“We didn’t ask, but it just makes sense,” he says.

Winer's advice for quelling the road rage -- turn off the thumping rock and roll and go classical -- like Beethoven or Mozart.

“Calmer music can help soothe the savage beast,” Winer tells WebMD. “Find what’s most relaxing to you. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to listen when you’re in traffic jams to talk radio shows, because if you hear something you disagree with, it primes you for road rage.”

Raison, the Emory psychiatrist, says even when the economy’s not in recession, driving in the big cities gives people a chance to act on aggressive feelings.

“Other drivers become faceless, anonymous objects,” he says. “We know from research that this plays into this evolved human tendency to be meaner, more hostile. We are just ruder in cars, more prickly toward strangers. Road rage is a way to pass off your misery.”

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