Road Rage—How Can You Cope?
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN BRITAIN
LOSS of temper and resulting violence figure more and more prominently in world press reports. Amid references to trolley rage (in which customers using trolleys, or food carts, vent their anger on one another at the supermarket) and phone rage (prompted by technology that allows the person you call to interrupt you to take another’s call), it is road rage that has caught people’s attention in Britain.
Road rage is so widespread that a 1996 report on driving habits claimed that in Britain it has “reached epidemic proportions, with almost half of all drivers experiencing some form of attack or abuse over the past year”! An Automobile Association survey went even further and reported that “nine out of ten motorists claim to have been the victims of road rage.” Interestingly, the same poll noted that “only six out of ten [motorists] admit to losing their own temper at the wheel.”
What prompts road rage? If you are a victim, what can you do to protect yourself? If someone else’s driving makes you angry, what should you do? Indeed, as road rage proliferates worldwide, how can you cope?
Cause and Effect
Angry drivers are nothing new. One early offender was English poet Lord Byron. In 1817 he wrote a letter in which he related a dispute he had on the road. Reportedly, another road user was “impudent” to Byron’s horse. As a result, the poet boxed the other man’s ears.
In most countries, as the volume of traffic grows, drivers’ frustration mounts. It was in the 1980’s that U.S. newspapers described the trigger for violent driving incidents as “road rage.” Although not a legal concept, road rage aptly describes the emotions at the root of many a violent act committed by motorists who are provoked by the other driver’s manner of driving.
The me-first attitude now saturates our roads. Researchers into driving habits conclude that “the perpetrators of violence or aggression nearly always believe themselves to be the righteous victims of someone else’s antisocial behaviour,” notes The Times of London. No matter how wildly a driver manipulates his vehicle, he feels justified. But when another driver commits a minor infringement of road courtesy, road rage flares.
The growing drug culture, so widespread among young people, also contributes to road rage. Cocaine abuse is, according to one hospital consultant, “comparable with drinking and driving.” Drivers who take drugs often have an exaggerated view of their own abilities. As a result, some drive their vehicles at dangerous speeds. Others drive erratically, their judgment impaired.
Consider, too, the effect stress has on a driver. Professor Cary Cooper of Manchester University blames the stresses and uncertainties of daily life in the 1990’s for much road rage. “Drivers are becoming more stressed and the number of violent assaults is increasing,” says a Royal Automobile Club spokesman. One busy public relations executive who now spends long hours driving to and from work admits that she is not as tolerant as she used to be. “Now I am quick to snap and get cross over little things that would never bother me before,” The Sunday Times reports her as saying. Perhaps you feel the same way. If so, what can you do?
Avoid Provoking Road Rage
Recognize that other drivers are not perfect. They will, on occasion, break the rules. Make allowance for this in your driving. Think ahead. For example, you may drive in the nearside, or slow lane, of a multilane highway. But then you approach a junction where a slip-road, or entrance ramp, filters traffic in to join the highway. Looking ahead, you see a car approaching the highway along the slip-road. Do you reason that you were there first, that you have a right to drive in your lane? Why should you give way to the merging traffic? Why should you steer into another lane, if clear, to allow the other driver to get onto the highway? But think, what will happen if you insist on holding to your lane and maintaining your speed? Perhaps the driver joining the highway will think similarly. Inevitably, someone must give way; otherwise, disaster will strike.
Wisely, the driver who wishes to avoid provoking road rage looks ahead and drives considerately. He gives way when he can, and he does not become angry when the other driver fails to acknowledge the courtesy shown him. A representative of Britain’s Institute of Advanced Motorists estimates that 1 out of every 3 drivers has a dangerous attitude problem. Though these drivers can handle their vehicles skillfully, they lack courtesy. He calls them “good drivers but bad motorists.”
Most drivers at times ignore other road users. But that does not justify your acting that way. Consider possible consequences. Surely you do not want any stubbornness on your part to provoke a pileup. Do not let your emotions take over. A driving expert advises: “You must never react or respond to aggression on the road.” Refuse to join the road-rage club!
Are You a Victim?
Virtually every driver has at some time been the victim of road rage. The raised fist, the shouted abuse, the aggressive maneuvers all can and do frighten. The best protection is surely to avoid conflict. One victim felt intimidated when a fellow driver wanted to get ahead of him. Finally, the angry driver overtook him, cut in, and slowed down so much that the victim feared that their cars would crash. This continued for some distance and ended only when the victim turned off onto another route.
If you see that other drivers want to get ahead of you, do your best to let them. Avoid insisting on your right to be where you are on the road. If you have knowingly irritated others, apologize. Gesture to indicate that you are sorry for even unwittingly causing offense. Remember that a mild word can defuse rage.
But if, for whatever reason, you are the victim of a road-rage attack, don’t retaliate. “Don’t give back in kind what you get,” advises Focus magazine. “Don’t carry things in your car that could be used as a dangerous weapon.” Other tips: Keep your car doors locked and windows shut. Avoid eye contact with an aggressor.
The above suggestions on how to cope with road rage are not new. They parallel advice offered long ago by King David of Israel: “Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers,” he counseled. “Do not be envious of those doing unrighteousness. Let anger alone and leave rage.”—Psalm 37:1, 8.
Though road rage is growing, don’t let it grow in you!
[Box/Picture on page 23]
Controlling Road Rage
The Automobile Association notes that when it comes to eliminating road rage, “changing attitudes is as important as engineering countermeasures.” Taking a realistic view of both your own driving skills and those of other road users is vital to coping with road rage. Although others’ mistakes stare you in the face, do not overlook your own driving faults. Accept the fact that there are drivers who flout the rules of the road. When you drive, make sure you are fully alert. Fatigue contributes to stress. A momentary lack of concentration can have fatal consequences.
Consider also the following advice, and notice how it relates to the proverbs of wise King Solomon.
• Do your passengers observe your anger? Perhaps they suggest that you calm down. Don’t simply brush away their advice and retort that they are backseat drivers. Remember, a calm attitude is more healthy and may literally help you live longer! “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.”—Proverbs 14:30.
• Think of the other driver, and avoid problems. “The wise one fears and is turning away from badness, but the stupid is becoming furious and self-confident.”—Proverbs 14:16.
• Defuse anger by an apologetic gesture or word. “An answer, when mild, turns away rage.”—Proverbs 15:1.
• Others may be prone to road rage, but you do not need to imitate them. “Do not have companionship with anyone given to anger.”—Proverbs 22:24.
• Avoid becoming involved in others’ disputes. “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.”—Proverbs 17:14.