Sunday, March 27, 2011

Off-Road Rage: A New Metropolitan Epidemic

By Christy Berka
Published March 27, 2011

CHICAGO—An alarming new epidemic has been rising in the Chicago metropolitan area.  Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have allowed the city’s officials to draw connections between commuter anxiety and outbreaks of verbal and even physical confrontation during peak transit hours.

Drivers are ever-familiar with the city’s rush hour traffic, and the harmful effects of aggressive driving, or “road rage,” sometimes caused from anxiety behind the wheel. Now, new research techniques have allowed for the study of online conversations across social networks that show striking similarities the in thought process and behavior modeling of those traveling without automobiles. 

Even more startling, officials have revealed strong correlations between non-drivers' aggressive statements during commutes with hospital admissions for such injuries as sidewalk trampling, railroad rash and severed limbs from elevator doors. 

Shedding light on what researchers have coined, “off-road rage,” the study offers explanations and highlights examples of traveler thought-process pulled from social networks:

Public Transit Rage
Rage across all forms of public transit brews when passengers violate the unspoken etiquette that exists on respective buses or trains.  Stand aside and wait for riders to unload, or get trampled. Don’t sit next to a single passenger when open seats are still available, or get glared at.  A tweet captured the inner-monologue of one Metra passenger at the start of her morning commute: “That bitch sitting in my seat obviously doesn’t know how this works. This is my car. That is my seat. #stepoff #illkickyourass”

Sidewalk Rage

For those who make the commute on foot, beware the path-driven who stomp the sidewalks, especially in heavily trafficked areas like Chicago’s Loop. People at risk include slow-walkers, groups of middle-aged women walking abreast and people carrying bulky loads.  One path-determined traveler threatened electronically: “Hey, Lady ahead of me walking & smoking—Maybe if you put out the cigarette, you’d waddle faster and inconvenience everyone less. #getouttheway”

Elevator Rage
Rageaholics show their true colors in elevators.  They typically target single-floor elevator riders, especially those returning to work after cigarette breaks or with bags full of fast food. One contentious Facebook post read, “This fatty just RAN to the elevator to stick a foot in the closing door and rode up ONE floor. In the future, we should require people to perform some sort of jig to make up for the missed exercise.”

With new research available and ongoing investigation underway, Chicagoland can take measures to prevent off-road rage. Commuters should heed this new trend and avoid behaviors known to trigger aggression. Simple adjustments can help keep tensions down and travelers safe.

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