In Depth Look At What Causes Road Rage and How You Can Avoid It

It's hard for Chris Martinez to come back to this area in Garland.

"Every day it don't get easier, it gets harder," Chris Martinez said.

It was at the intersection of Centerville Road and Northwest Highway were his brother Francisco Pasillas, a husband and father of two young children, was shot and killed during a road rage altercation.

"An unexpected death is not easy at all," Martinez said. "It's very hard. It affects everyone."

According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration two-thirds of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving. A little more than one-third of those involve a firearm.

"We are living in the age of rage," Licensed professional counselor Dr. Robert Smith said.

Smith specializes in anger management.

"What really drives anger is frustration," Smith said. "Frustration is often driven by the feeling I don't have any control over this."

Smith says while all that may be out of our control in life, our car becomes our last space of control. We control our music, our temperature, and where we're heading.

"We spend an awful lot of time in the car and it kind of becomes an extension of us," Smith said.

"So when someone cuts us off or someone fails to signal or someone is driving to slowly in the left lane we might feel this is really a transgression."

That transgression can lead to aggression and possibly road rage.

"The roadways are crowded," Arlington Police Traffic Section Commander Lt. Jeff Pugh said. "They are only going to get more crowded. Be patient."

The Arlington Police Department has a dedicated Crash Reduction Program. It includes a road rage hotline. If it's not an emergency situation, you can call to report a driver and a letter will be sent to them notifying them of their bad driving behavior.

In 2018 there were 350 calls to the hotline. 256 letters were mailed to registered vehicle owners.

So far this year 252 calls to the hotline. 142 letters have been mailed.

Police advise you should always try to avoid drivers showing aggressive behavior.

"Exit the roadway," Pugh said. "Let them continue on the freeway or major roadway. Pull into a parking lot or whatever so that you can disengage."

But what if you are the one feeling your temper rising on the roadway? 

"We react to certain situations automatically and that's really how we are wired," Smith said.

He added you must take a moment to take control of your emotions.

"The important thing is we have to keep our ability to think clearly," Smith said. "The way we do that is by learning to calm our body before we get out of the box."

Smith teaches clients calm breathing techniques to avoid anger. He calls it the 4-7-8 method. You inhale for four seconds, hold it for seven, and then exhale for eight.

"When you slow your breathing down it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which calms the body," Smith said. "When our body is calm we can think more clearly."

Thinking more clearly behind the wheel could keep you or someone else alive.

"Nobody's life should ever be taken when it comes to road rage," Martinez said.

It's advice he hopes drivers will think about so no other family has to deal with the loss of a loved one to road rage.

"You know, pray this doesn't happen to anyone else," Martinez said.

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