Statistics show that up to 16 million Americans are experiencing road rage – or, as doctors have taken to calling it, intermittent explosive disorder. With such a staggering number of adult drivers being affected by this disorder, we have to wonder how many of their children are being affected as well.
In February of 2014, two drivers in Texas became involved in an altercation over one driver cutting the other off. Although the situation was angry and threatening, police stated that the issue could have ended there. Instead, when driver Larry Dewayne Brinkley exited the situation to return home, the other driver, Leslie Larrison, followed him. The two men exited their cars and engaged in a heated altercation while the children of both men watched in fear. Again, authorities stated that the situation could have ended here. However, it did not. As the children watched, Brinkley shot and killed Larrison. In this violent case of road rage, children not only lost a parent, but they lost their innocence. Those children will be affected for the rest of their lives by their parents’ inability to control anger.
And while the story of Brinkley and Larrison demonstrates an extreme case of road rage, it is important to remember that children can be affected by road rage even if it isn’t as violent as the aforementioned case. Road rage can be classified as such even when the alleged “rage” doesn’t involve physical violence. Hand gestures, yelling and reckless driving can not only cause child passengers to experience fear and anxiety, but it also gives them a disturbing impression – an impression that says recklessness and violence are both acceptable.
According to Psychology Today, “Children observe their parents more closely, appraise their parents more carefully and know their parents better than parents do the child.” Children pay much closer attention to parents than parents often realize, so when a child witnesses questionable actions by their parents, they perceive these actions as acceptable. In turn, children tend to mimic their parents when they observe road rage. According to everydaylife.com, 55% of teens have witnessed road rage and 56% of all car accidents are caused by road rage. With such a staggering percentage of witnesses and fatalities, it is imperative for parents to restrain from expressing rage and/or driving recklessly, especially while driving kids.
Not only can road rage put a child’s life in danger, but it can also impress upon a child that anger and recklessness is an appropriate way to deal with other aggressive drivers. Drive cautiously and think twice before you act irrationally.
Ashley Howard is an intern with Boston Parents Paper.