Road Rage

Previous Page

Road Rage : Phrases


Aggressively argumentative, and sometimes violent, behaviour indulged in by drivers when annoyed by other road users' actions.



Appears to have been coined by a Los Angeles Times' writer in 1984 when reporting the story of a truck driver who shot a car driver who cut him up. The term caught on quickly and this was followed by numerous citations in print during the 1980s. For example, this from the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, 1988:

"A fit of 'road rage' has landed a man in jail, accused of shooting a woman passenger who's [sic] car had 'cut him off' on the highway."

This stayed in America for several years before migrating elsewhere. It wasn't seen in the UK, or at least it wasn't reported using the 'road rage' term, until the 1990s. John Cleese demonstrated an excellent precursor to it in Faulty Towers in 1974, albeit getting angry with the car rather than another motorist..

This piece appeared in June 1994 in The Sunday Times (London):

"It was an amazing sight for motorists stuck in traffic in the north London suburb of Hendon. After cars had jockeyed for last-minute advantage, they watched as a leading member of Britain's orthodox Jews leaped out of his gold Mercedes and punched a Buddhist monk sitting at the wheel of a Nissan Micra. The attack earned David Schreiber, an elder of the United Synagogue, a fine and convictions for assault and threatening behaviour. It also placed him among the growing numbers of ordinary British people caught up in 'road rage', a problem that police, motoring organisations and psychologists say is sweeping the country."

'Road rage' is now worldwide, both as a name and as a behaviour. The name at least is popular enough to have spawned imitators. Following Watergate, every scandal is now xxx-gate. Likewise, whenever anyone becomes argumentative about something, it is 'something rage'. For example 'air rage' - the misbehaviour of unruly aircraft passengers. Most airlines now provide information leaflets on how best to avoid this. There was even an 'Air Rage' feature film made in 2001. There is also 'trolley rage' - arguments over supermarket trolleys, and 'lounger' rage at pool sides. Road rage is less common, or at least it is less commonly reported. Possibly because motorists are controlling their stress better or, more probably, because it is no longer considered newsworthy. A more recent favourite, especially in the UK, is 'bin rage'. Here's an example, printed in the Bristol Evening Post, July 2001:

"A man who admitted in court he suffered an attack of 'bin rage' when binmen failed to collect rubbish from his girlfriend's house has been cleared of attacking two refuse collectors."
Phrases Index

From Road Rage to HOME PAGE

Follow These Links!