Now that the summer driving season is in full swing I thought it might be interesting to explore the topic of road rage. What precisely is road rage?
It is defined as an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger(s) of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway In other words, road rage occurs when someone deliberately tries to harm you as a result of something that happened while you were driving your car.
How does road rage differ from aggressive driving? Aggressive driving is defined as a progression of unlawful driving actions such as speeding, improper or excessive lane changing, failing to signal intent, failing to see if movement can be made safely, or improper passing, such as using an emergency lane or shoulder to pass. Aggressive drivers know that you don’t know who they are, so they feel they have more power and can do as they please. They don’t believe there will be consequences to their actions. More about this later.
So road rage is considered to be a reaction to something you did while driving your car. Most people, when asked, consider themselves to be good drivers. But anyone could be considered an aggressive driver if they engage in any of the following activities: expressing frustration by cursing, yelling or gesturing to other drivers; dividing their attention by eating, drinking, talking on the phone, reading or applying make-up while driving, frequently running red or amber lights, frequently changing lanes or speeding.
How can you protect yourself against road rage? The single best way to avoid unknowingly provoking road rage in another driver is to be a good defensive driver. Be aware of what is going on around you at all times. Keep a safe following distance. Always use your signals when changing lanes or making a turn. Keep right, except to pass, particularly on highways or the thruway. Dim your high beams when following or approaching another car. Lay off your horn. You can also avoid falling into aggressive driving habits by leaving a little extra time to arrive at your destination, playing relaxing music, or by learning and practicing stress reducing exercises. And don’t take things personally; nobody is out to get you.
If you do encounter road rage inadvertently or through aggressive driving, don’t engage. Avoiding an enraged driver is the best policy in the long run. If you need to, pull over to let them by. If you need to pull over on the shoulder be sure to do so only in a well-lit and public area. Avoid making eye contact, which may be construed as a challenge by the other driver. And certainly avoid making any hand gestures, well deserved though they may be.
One thing you can do is to pull over and jot down the license plate number of the offending vehicle. If you have a cell phone you can call and alert the local law enforcement agency of the tag number, location and direction of travel of the offending vehicle. You can also stop in the local police HQ and file a written complaint that will result in a summons being issued, though you will have to be prepared to appear in court when the case comes before a judge.
I was surprised in researching this article by how widespread a phenomenon road rage is: it’s a problem all around the world. Large cities, small towns, rural areas, highways and country lanes are all affected. There isn’t a consensus on how to deal with the problem or even if a problem actually exists. One growing school of thought espouses carrying a laminated 9″x 4″ sign in your car with the word “SORRY” printed on it that you can hold up to your window in an attempt to pacify enraged drivers. I came across an ad for a special one decade set of rosary beads that you could say whenever someone cuts you off. I also discovered, much to my dismay, several video games that transform the concept into entertainment, which I suspect is a contributing factor to the problem.
At times it amuses me to speculate what opinion future generations will have of us who lived during the golden age of the automobile. Think about it: cars have been around for about a hundred years and they’ll remain around for what, fifty more years, a hundred, before they are replaced by Star Trek–type transporters or whatever. A brief moment in human history. What will the kids of the future think when they study about us in their history books? These folks, they’ll think, operated primitive personal transportation conveyances utilizing fossil fuels that not only spawned one major world war (that killed millions) and at least minor one (death toll still rising at press time), but which also polluted and threatened to destroy their entire environment! What could they have been thinking?!?
Regardless of what our future progeny may think, we can best protect our current offspring by promoting driver education in our schools and always modeling courtesy and respect in our homes. This will help instill in our children the proper skills and attitudes necessary to eliminate the problems posed by road rage and aggressive driving.
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