In an effort to increase understanding of "road rage" (an extreme form of aggressive driving that is a risk factor for vehicular-accident injury and death) as a criminological issue, this study examined Agnew's general strain theory (GST) as an explanation for road-rage behaviors.
The study found substantial evidence that college students participate in aggressive driving that often reaches the level of road rage. Many of the reasons for such aggressive driving stemmed from stress, anger, low levels of self-control, and deviant peer relationships. The study concluded that GST does provide a convincing explanation for road rage. GST holds that strain related to the failure to achieve valued goals and the experiencing of adverse events perceived as unfair, coupled with poor coping behaviors, leads to aggression and retaliation against individuals who do not show respect and submission on the road. Further, the study supported the assumption that "trait anger" (anger as a persistent personality trait) would have a significant effect on "situational anger" (anger triggered by a specific event). An additional finding was that strain operated through the coping mechanism of association with and imitation of aggressive peers who also behaved under the dynamics of GST. Future research should focus on the role of situational anger versus trait anger in the strain model. Since existing data have shown that the majority of aggressive drivers are between the ages of 18 and 26, study participants were a sample of college students, who completed a self-administered questionnaire. The sample was recruited from a small independent college (n=120) and a mid-sized university (n=380), both located in Pennsylvania. The questionnaire contained questions designed to determine the extent and variation in road-rage behavior and assess links among strain, anger, and coping mechanisms. Figures, tables, appended study materials, and 250 references
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