It never fails.
Just when you think the day couldn't get any worse, that the world is out to get you: Some "jerk" cuts you off on the drive home.
This decisive moment, when someone loses control of his or her judgment and snaps, can become the catalyst for terror.
With more than half the licensed drivers in the United States becoming "Road Warriors", or "Ragers", the minute they get behind the wheel, incidents of aggression on roadways are increasing at an alarming rate. Experts predict a steady rise in the future of seven percent annually of aggressive driving. But gathering information for a comprehensive report is extremely difficult, considering most acts of aggression are never reported.
"If a motorist drives too fast, for whatever reason, they are an aggressive driver," Clay County Sheriff Rob Carter said, explaining an all-too-common situation in the county. "Road Rage is an incident where someone is angered by being cut off or tailgating and they react violently."
Incidents serious enough to result in headline news have usually escalated to an out-of-control situation from a remarkably trivial beginning.
Switching lanes without signaling, blocking passing lanes, tailgating, speeding and making obscene gestures are situations every driver has experienced. The difference between a Road Warrior and an innocent victim is how each deals with his or her feelings.
"The best way to handle a Road Rage situation is to avoid it entirely by not engaging these people, but report it to the proper authorities," Sheriff Carter recommended.
Psychologists believe that the problem has roots in the extremely stressful lifestyles of society today.
"Anger is in all areas of a person's life," said Dr. Richard Casserly, an area psychologist. "How it is dealt with by an individual becomes the important factor."
Anger, a controlled normal reaction to stressors, is caused by life problems. With pressures of work, home, family and self-imposed responsibilities piling up on an overwhelmed person, anger at the situation builds until it releases.
Everyone experiences anger, but the clinical diagnosis of Intermittent Explosive Disorder, or rage, is not a normal reaction to stress. A motivated person experiencing overwhelming anger can successfully receive therapy after admitting a problem, but people with IED usually deny a problem even exists.
Rage is an exaggerated out-of-control reaction to stressors. Although it does not need a source to occur, stimulants are a contributing factor in many cases. Alcohol abuse and hard-core drug usage, such as the rising methamphetamine use in the county, can produce rage and/or paranoia in an otherwise normal person.
Put a person with IED, or someone experiencing alcohol/drug abuse, behind the wheel of a car, and driving becomes a volatile situation.
"People experiencing Road Rage are not angry at driving. It is other things in their lives causing the out-of-control behavior. A car is the extension of a person's ego," Dr. Casserly said, then explained the mindset of a person experiencing road rage. "You violate their perceived space - they react negatively."