Is Road Rage a Side Effect of Traumatic Brain Injuries?

Our brain controls all bodily and mental functions, so it is no surprise that injury to the brain could have devastating effects and produce changes in personality, such as increased agitation and aggression that can lead to road rage. According to a 2015 study that examined the relationships between brain injury and road aggression and collisions, driver aggression has been linked to collisions, injuries and deaths across the world.

The study examined the associations between lifetime traumatic brain injury (TBI), driver aggression, and motor vehicle collisions among a population sample of adults in Ontario, Canada. Serious driver aggression includes making threats to hurt a fellow driver, passenger or vehicle, which increases chances of a crash. These individuals also reported significantly higher odds of being involved in a motor vehicle collision that resulted in hurting themselves, their passenger or their vehicle.

What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is damage to the brain that can be caused by a forceful bump, blow, or jolt to the head or body, or by an object that pierces the skull and enters the brain.

Some types of TBI can cause temporary or short-term problems with normal brain function, including problems with how someone thinks, understands, moves, communicates, and acts. Some injuries are considered primary, meaning the damage is immediate. Other outcomes of TBI can be secondary, occurring gradually over the course of hours, days, or weeks later due to processes that occur after the initial head trauma.

There are various symptoms of a TBI — physical, behavioral, and cognitive. Physical symptoms such as headache, dizziness, confusion, and fatigue tend to start immediately after an injury but resolve over time.

Emotional symptoms such as frustration and irritability that may lead to aggressive driving tend to develop during recovery, and some people may not even realize the relation to their traumatic brain injury. Other changes that can lead to road rage include:

  • Mood changes or swings, agitation, combativeness, or other unusual behavior
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Fatigue or drowsiness; a lack of energy or motivation.

How the Study Indicates that a TBI Can Affect Driving

In a report issued to Congress in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was estimated that, in one year alone, TBIs accounted for approximately 2.2 million emergency department visits, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 50,000 deaths. Although a TBI begins with physical trauma, it quickly leads to a series of chemical and structural changes in the brain. It can affect how a person feels, thinks, acts and learns long after medical treatment and rehabilitation are completed.

The brain is a complicated organ, and there is no way of knowing how it will react in any given set of circumstances. Some injuries leave patients alive but unconscious or severely impaired. Others are seemingly mild, yet cause slight but continual changes in mood, memory, and cognitive abilities. It’s understandable that TBIs could affect how people drive.

Working with the knowledge that driver aggression and the risk of wrecks are strongly affected by psychiatric factors, the researchers in Toronto, Canada, surveyed almost 4,000 adult drivers between the ages of 18 and 97. Conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health from 2011 to 2012 and published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, the study was the first of its kind to examine the link between traumatic brain injuries and aggressive driving behaviors.

In total, 16.7 percent of those who responded to the survey had a history of TBI. The prevalence of brain injury was higher in men than in women. Adults who had had at least one traumatic brain injury in their life were significantly more likely to report that they had engaged in aggressive driving behavior, including threatening other drivers, passengers and vehicles. These same drivers were also more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle wreck that resulted in injury to themselves or others

Although this data suggests that there is a link between traumatic brain injuries and dangerous driving behaviors, researchers cautioned that they could not be sure that the relationship is causal. Further study is necessary to determine whether TBIs could be a root cause of aggressive driving behavior. Making that determination could lead to the conclusion that other kinds of brain damage or mental illness are directly connected to traffic safety problems. Until that happens, it’s important that TBI survivors monitor their behaviors in high-stress situations – for their own good as well as the safety of those around them.

Get Help After a Road Rage Accident

When you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident that you suspect was due to another party’s road rage, negligence, or fault, you should be entitled to compensation for the resulting injuries, property damage, and pain and suffering.

Kentucky law is complicated, and making mistakes can be costly, but the skilled personal injury attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm are here to help. Billy Johnson has extensive experience with the court system and insurance companies and can help investigate the accident, determine responsibility, establish your claim, and fight for the compensation you deserve. We offer prospective clients a free initial case evaluation to explore your options, so call us today to get started.

GET HELP NOW 606-437-4488

Attorney Billy Johnson

William “Billy” Johnson grew up in the Dorton area of Pike County, Kentucky, and early on decided to stay in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Like many others in Eastern Kentucky, Billy’s dad worked as a coal miner, a hard job but one that taught his son how to meet challenges head on and persevere. Attorney Billy Johnson has years of experience helping injured clients with claims such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, work injuries, and more. [ Attorney Bio ]

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