Assessment of Road Rage
Many measures have been developed in recent years that are designed to assess angry feelings and thoughts and aggressive behaviors while driving. In the following sections, I describe and evaluate three measures that may be particularly useful for counseling practitioners.
Driving Anger Scale
The Driving Anger Scale was the first instrument developed to assess driving-related anger. There are two versions of the DAS, a 33-item long form and a 14-item short form. Respondents are asked to imagine themselves in various situations and rate the amount of anger that would be provoked on a 5-point scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much). The DAS involves a variety of potentially anger-provoking driving situations. Examples of items are "Someone is driving right up on your back bumper," "Someone speeds up when you try to pass them," "You are stuck in a traffic jam," and "Someone in front of you does not start up when the light turns green." Based on a cluster analysis of over 1,500 college students who completed the DAS during their freshman orientation, six subscales emerged: (a) Hostile Gestures (i.e., another driver signals anger or displeasure with the driver), (b) Illegal Driving (i.e., another driver breaks common traffic laws), (c) Police Presence, (d) Slow Driving (i.e., another driver or pedestrian impedes traffic flow), (e) Discourtesy (i.e., others engage in discourteous behavior), and (f) Traffic Obstructions (i.e., events that frustrate or obstruct the driver, such as traffic jams and road construction).
Deffenbacher et al. reported internal consistency reliabilities of .90 and .80 for the long and short forms, respectively. In a subsequent study, Deffenbacher et al. obtained internal consistency reliabilities of .92 for the short form and .96 for the long form, and both forms were found to have satisfactory test-retest reliability based on a 10-week interval (.84 and .88 for the short and long forms, respectively). For the long form, subscale reliabilities were found to range from .78 to .87. Although the subscales tend to correlate positively with each other, cluster analyses have demonstrated that there is enough independence of the subscales to assess different reactions to different types of situations. The correlation between the long form and the short form was .95, suggesting that either form was appropriate to use if only a total driving anger score was needed. Gender differences were obtained on four of the subscales: Men reported more anger for Police Presence and Slow Driving, whereas women reported more anger for Traffic Obstructions and Illegal Driving. The DAS has been shown to correlate positively with general trait anger and trait anxiety and to differentiate high-from low-anger drivers.
Driving Anger Expression Inventory
The Driving Anger Expression Inventory is designed to measure the ways an individual expresses anger while driving. Sixty-two items were generated based on interviews with college students, faculty members, and community members. Items are rated on a 4-point scale from 1 (almost never) to 4 (almost always) in terms of how often the respondent expresses anger in the manner described (e.g., "I give the other driver the finger," "I try to cut in front of the other driver," and "I glare at the other driver"). Based on an administration of the DAX to 290 undergraduates, Deffenbacher, Lynch, et al. performed a factor analysis that produced four subscales: ( 1) Verbal Aggressive Expression (12 items), involving verbal behaviors such as name calling, cursing, and asking negative rhetorical questions, as well as nonverbal behaviors such as glaring, dirty looks, and shaking one's head; (2) Personal Physical Aggressive Expression (11 items), involving the use of physical means to intimidate others (e.g., hostile gestures); (3) Using the Vehicle To Express Anger (11 items), for example, speeding up or slowing down to frustrate another driver or flashing one's lights; and (4) Adaptive/Constructive Expression (15 items), which involves safe driving and effective coping techniques (e.g., think things through, relax). The first three subscales (34 items) can be summed for a Total Aggressive Expression score.
Each of the four subscales was found to possess satisfactory internal consistency, with alpha reliabilities of .88, .81, .86, and .90 for the four subscales, respectively. The alpha reliability coefficient for the Total Aggressive Expression index was .90. The three subscales of aggressive expression correlated positively with each other, with reliabilities ranging from .39 to .48, but were uncorrelated or negatively correlated with Adaptive/Constructive Expression, with reliabilities ranging from -. 02 to -.22. The three subscales of aggressive expression correlated positively with general trait anger, trait driving anger, anger in commonly occurring driving situations and everyday driving, and aggressive and risky driving behavior. The Adaptive/Constructive Expression subscale, on the other hand, tended to correlate negatively with these variables. Also, a gender effect was found, with men scoring higher than women on Personal Physical Aggressive Expression and the Total Aggressive Expression index.
Driver's Angry Thoughts Questionnaire
The Driver's Angry Thoughts Questionnaire is a recently developed 65-item scale designed to assess angry thinking while driving. Each item is rated on a 5-point scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (all the time) in terms of how often the respondent has the particular thought that is mentioned when he or she is angry at another driver or about something when driving. Five factors were identified based on the results of a factor analysis: (a) Judgmental/Disbelieving Thinking (21 items), (b) Pejorative Labeling/Verbally Aggressive Thinking (13 items), (c) Revenge/Retaliatory Thinking (14 items), (d) Physically Aggressive Thinking (8 items), and (e) Coping Self-Instruction (9 items).
The Judgmental/Disbelieving subscale consists of items that involve questioning the driving of others, derogation of another person's driving, and thoughts about others not being allowed to drive. Examples of items are "People like you ought to have to take a driver's test" and "Get people like them off the road." The Pejorative Labeling/Verbally Aggressive subscale involves harsh negative judgments, name calling, and thoughts about how the respondent would like to engage in verbally aggressive behavior. Sample items include "What an idiot" and "Get off my ass!" The Revenge/ Retaliatory subscale includes thoughts of retaliation and revenge behavior (e.g., "I'm not going to let them do that to me" and "I'm going to slow down to spite them"). The Physically Aggressive subscale consists of thoughts of wanting to hurt others physically and about engaging in physically aggressive behaviors, for example, "I want to kick their ass" and "I want to run them off the road." The Coping Self-Instruction subscale consists of items that reflect positive and adaptive coping thoughts such as "Just back off and relax" and "Nothing I can do about it so take it easy."
Deffenbacher, Petrilli, et al. have reported preliminary reliability and validity data for the DATQ. Internal reliability coefficients for the subscales were all above .90, except for the Coping Self-Instruction (alpha = .83). The Pejorative Labeling/Verbally Aggressive Thinking, Physically Aggressive Thinking, and Revengeful/Retaliatory Thinking subscales correlated positively with each other and with driving anger, aggressive driving anger expression, aggression, and risky driving behavior, whereas the Coping Self-Instruction subscale correlated negatively with these variables. The Judgmental/Disbelieving subscale did not correlate as strongly with the other variables. Driving-related angry thoughts, except coping self-instruction, correlated with general angry thoughts.
All three of these measures seem to have good clinical utility. The DAS can be used as a quick and reliable means of assessing an individual's propensity to experience maladaptive levels of anger while driving. If an individual is assessed to be a high-anger driver based on his or her DAS score, the DAX can then be used to assess the ways in which anger is displayed in driving situations. The DATQ may be useful for specific assessment of angry thoughts associated with driving, although this scale is relatively new and has not been evaluated to the same extent as the other two instruments.
In addition to these standardized instruments, individuals can be asked to keep a driving anger journal, similar to the driving log used in studies by Deffenbacher and his colleagues. Individuals can be instructed to monitor and record anger experienced while driving and to look for patterns or provocation situations that are most problematic. For example, are there certain times of the day when anger is more easily provoked? Under what circumstances is anger provoked? Is there a difference when driving alone versus driving with passengers? In fact, it can be helpful to get the perspective of passengers, given the se]f-serving bias exhibited by most people in their self-assessment of driving habits. Self-assessment can foster increased awareness and consciousness while driving, a first step in treatment for angry driving.
- Sharkin, B. S. (2004). Road Rage: Risk Factors, Assessment, and Intervention Strategies. Journal of Counseling & Development,82(2), 191-198. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6678.2004.tb00301.x
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Reflection Exercise #5
The preceding section contained information
about assessments of road rage. Write
three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section
in your practice.
19 What are the six subscales of The Driving Anger Scale (DAS)? Record the letter of the correct answer