Why road rage is on the rise and what to do about it

Everyone is familiar with that feeling - the red-hot rage which accompanies someone cutting you off, or forgetting their indicator exists. 

It can be hard to rein it in and remain calm, and researchers say road rage is on the rise.

A psychology professor from Victoria University of Wellington says road rage is becoming more common as people spend longer periods of time in their cars.

"There's reason to think that road rage is actually worse now than it was five or 10 years ago," Professor Mark Wilson told The Project.

"There's been some statistics in recent times, suggesting we're spending more time stuck in traffic than we have been previously," he continued. 

And the summer heat doesn't help either.

"If you're hot and sweaty that's additional stress on top of getting to the kids' sports game or whatever," he said.

Wilson says certain people are more likely to engage in road rage due to society's acceptance. 

"Men are more likely to engage in road rage because culturally we allow and accept men to be angry and express that anger,"

But just because you're feeling furious, it's doesn't mean it's in your interest to act on it.

"There actually isn't any research evidence to suggest that [acting on anger] is cathartic, in fact, there seems to be reason to think that if you act out your aggression, then, in fact, it maintains it for longer," said Wilson.

He says the best thing to do when you're feeling the anger creep in is to give yourself some time.

"There's research that says the more angry you are, the more likely you are to drive impulsively, the more likely you are to speed and the more likely you are to make mistakes and have accidents. About twice the rate," 

So to keep yourself and other driver's safe, it's always better to back off than step up.

"The thing to do is to back off - don't follow them aggressively, and if you distance yourself that gives you a chance to calm down."