Raging on the road: Lessons in virtue

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

If patience really is a virtue, folks daring – or having – to drive down South Brundidge Street in Troy Thursday were tested for that trait.

The ongoing road project began more than a year ago and motorists have only been mildly inconvenienced prior to this week, but now longer stretches of the road are being resurfaced, causing long lines, horn honking and steering wheel smashing.

On my way back from lunch Thursday, I took a deep breath and waited for the “pilot” truck to pass my way so I could get back to work. My fingers tapping on the steering wheel, I began to send telepathic messages to road crews and the truck driver, “Come oooooon. Hurry up!”

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From the look on his face, the telepathic messages coming from the man driving behind me weren’t as “clean.”

But as I sat in traffic, I glanced at the clock a few times and noticed it only FELT as if 15 minutes had passed. In reality, it only took me two minutes longer to get where I was going.

I started to wonder, health wise, are those blood pressure rising, angry fist pounding temper tantrums motorists have behind the wheel worth the small delay.

Leon James, a professor of Traffic Psychology at the University of Hawaii said that research has found initial aggressive stimulation, such as that from road rage, is very harmful to the body – especially if it’s reoccurring.

“When you are angry, you are pouring stress hormones into your blood system, which are harmful to your heart and other functioning of the body,” James told a BBC reporter.

When a person becomes angry, adrenaline is stimulated, according to webmd.com. Stress that results can cause physical symptoms, including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and problems sleeping.

According to the same website, research suggests that stress can also bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

And if you are feeling stressed behind the wheel, you aren’t alone. Studies indicate that more than 70 percent of Americans suffer from road rage and 43 percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress. Seventy-five to 90 percent of all doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments, according to webmd.com.

So, before you burst your next blood vessel behind the wheel, take a deep breath and relax. Two minutes of delay is not worth the literal headache.

Robbyn Brooks is a staff writer at The Messenger. Contact her at robbyn.brooks@troymessenger.com.