The Open Road Archives (98-01-11)

Road Rage - Don't Be Part Of It

The big topic for today seems to be "road rage". It is being cited as the cause of a growing number of accidents and fatalities. One of the proposed solutions is to get these dangerous drivers off the road. The question is: How do we identify the road ragers? Are they dangerous people who become even worse when they get into a car, or are they basically normal people who are driven to rage by what is happening on the roads?

My opinion is that there are both kinds of drivers involved. Some of the road ragers are fundamentally bad drivers, caught up in the idea that they have the right to drive just as they like, and everyone else should just get out of their way. When someone does something unexpected, or inconvenient, to one of these people, they take it as an attack on their basic rights, almost as if the other person had tried to kill them. Feeling as if they are threatened, they feel that any defense is justified.

If these people could be reliably identified, then perhaps they should be forever barred from driving. Of course, that, too, would be taken as an infringement of their basic rights, and probably lead to them finding another outlet for their violence.

Most people, however, do not fall into that category. Most people think, at least while not driving, that we all share the road, and that we are all just trying to get where we're going. Nonetheless, many of us, especially those who live in or near large cities, have experienced road rage either as a potential victim or as a potential rager. You may have been tailgated by some driver with his high beams on. You may have felt anger when someone cut you off, or passed unexpectedly on the wrong side.

Most of us, most of the time, can get angry at other drivers without feeling as if we would literally like to kill them. All of us get angry at other drivers when they do things which we perceive as "stupid" or "inconsiderate". If we experience enough of these incidents, we may eventually decide that there is no way to fix the problem apart from our own, personal, direct intervention. That is where we cross the line from anger to road rage.

The two things which are most likely to trigger road rage seem to be being cut off, and seeing people driving on the shoulder.

Assuming that you are a normal driver who finds yourself frequently confronted with the kind of bad driving which leads to anger, there are a number of things you can do to minimize the chances of getting involved with road rage. Perhaps the most important is to drive with awareness. You are much less likely to be unexpectedly cut off, or to cut anyone else off, if you are aware of what the other drivers are doing.

If you try to keep track of the cars on both sides of you, in all lanes, and four or five car lengths ahead and behind, then you will be aware of bad drivers long before they are close to you. If someone close to you is driving badly, make it your priority to live to tell the tale. Don't cut him off; make room for him. Don't force him to slow down for you; get out of his way. If you feel you have to do something, get a description as he goes past, and report the incident to the local police.

Another cause of road rage is the feeling that nobody is doing anything about these bad drivers. This leads to a set of bad consequences. First, if the bad drivers think that nobody is going to do anything to punish them, then there is no incentive for them to correct their own driving. Next, if the good drivers think that nobody is even trying to apply the law, then there is a chance that some of them will turn vigilante. They are not intending to break the law; they intend to see to it that it is enforced.

We can all help with this problem. If you see a bad driver and can get a description, then write your local police and ask them to tell the driver how bad his driving was. If you can't get a description, or if you see some part of the road that is repeatedly causing problems, write to your local politicians. Tell them what's going on on the road, and ask them to get involved in improving the situation.

Road rage. What can you do to avoid it? Drive the best you can at all times. Be aware of what's going on around you so you don't get caught by surprise. WHen you feel yourself getting angry at another driver, remember that it's not your job to correct him, and calm down. Think about the way you drive, and the effect it has on other drivers. We can all drive better than we do now, and if we all try to beat the rage in ourselves, then we can help make the roads a friendlier place.

This page is maintained by