“I got such a fright the other day regarding road rage. There was a huge 4 x 4 right up against my car’s back bumper. I couldn’t get out of the way. I got really upset with this aggressive behaviour, because if I have had to suddenly brake for whatever reason, it will mean this 4 x 4 will not have time to stop and will demolish my car. So I slightly touched my brakes. That was a big mistake. I came to a four-way intersection and I still had this driver on my car’s tail. When I stopped, he jumped out of the 4 x 4, and started running towards my car. But fortunately, it was my turn to go, and so I went. But he ran back to his 4 x 4, and started to chase me, swerving as he overtook me, as if to try and hit my car.”
Many of us are only too familiar with the above account of serious stress or road rage. It can happen so easily and before you know it, you find yourself sucked up into the situation, which can turn out ugly. Let us find out how we can deal effectively with this problem that is so prevalent on South African roads.
NO ONE IS EXEMPT FROM ROAD RAGE
Travelling to work every day will unfortunately mean that you will encounter some form of road rage at some point. Why is there road rage in the first place? What starts road rage? What is road rage?
WHAT IS ROAD RAGE?
Road rage is an extreme type of aggressive driving, and refers to a particular type of driver behaviour. This includes the driver making rude gestures, and verbal abuse towards other drivers. The behaviour can deteriorate to the point where a driver with “road rage” tries to crash into your car, or cut your car off, and then physically attack you. The worst cases are when people have been killed just because of road rage.
WHY IS THERE ROAD RAGE?
Every driver has in his or her mind, whether justified or not, certain criteria that other drivers should stick to. When a car suddenly comes whizzing in from nowhere, cuts you off, jumping the queue just before you, the normal response would be “Who does this guy think he is? The cheek of it!” So retaliation occurs out of sheer frustration.1 Some of the other driver behaviour that peeves motorists in general are:
- Driving too slowly, and under the speed limit
- Not indicating when turning
- Talking on cell phones
- Slowing down early and long before exiting the freeway
- Suddenly accelerating when being overtaken
- Refusing to move over into a slower lane
— Arrive Alive (@_ArriveAlive) April 13, 2017
COPING WITH DRIVING STRESS
We all get stressed to some degree or other when driving in heavy traffic, mainly due to the unpredictability of some drivers. The behaviour of a stressed driver all depends on how that particular driver copes with stress. Some of us just shrug it off, perhaps because we have decided well in advance that it is just not worth it. Others just can’t deal with such stress, and become highly aggressive, resorting to confrontational behaviour. This would include hooting for a long time, swerving, and trying to attack the driver of the other car in one way or another.
ARE WE INSTIGATING ROAD RAGE OR IS IT THE OTHER GUY?
It is time we assessed our ability to drive.2 We have to be honest with ourselves and not just sweep under the carpet any road rage incidents that we may have started. We have to start with ourselves because we are the only ones who have control over ourselves. We cannot control the “other driver.”
AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS AND “ROAD RAGERS”
Aggressive drivers will flash headlights, hoot for a long time, tailgate, change lanes suddenly, and often, and make rude signs to/at other drivers. The sooner such drivers change their behaviour, the better, not only for their own good, but also for the good of other drivers.
ROAD RAGE IS A CRIMINAL OFFENCE
Road rage is a criminal offence when a traffic situation gets out of control, resulting in physical violence, damage to vehicles and so on.
OUR EGO (ATTITUDE) MAY BE THE ROOT CAUSE OF ROAD RAGE
Let’s face it – isn’t it possibly our pride that gets us upset when someone suddenly jumps the queue, cuts us off, or stops right in front of us? For sure it is unfair, and for sure that so-and-so should not be doing this, and on and on goes the list. The reason to get upset may be fully “justified,” but actually we have to get to the realisation that retaliation in one form or another is just not worth it! Retaliation by way of road rage is a lose-lose situation.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
So, let us look at some ways we can avoid potential road rage situations:
- Get out of the way, instead of staying pig-headedly in that fast lane with a car tailgating you. Stop thinking that it is your right to be in the fast lane just because you are at the speed limit. Move over and let the tailgater go.
- Ignore rude signs.
- If a driver cuts you off, slow down and let the driver come in.
- Always indicate clearly and in good time what your intentions are for the other drivers3
- Take a deep breath and start to relax. This will mean that you will be able to make clear decisions instead of having strong emotions overwhelming your reasoning.
- When being tailgated, rather avoid touching your brakes slightly, or putting on the emergency indicators – just indicate and pull over to the side at the nearest opportunity.4
- Be careful not to get too close to the car in front of you as you might start to upset the driver. Leave a two-second space between your car and the one in front of you.
2 http://www.netstar.co.za/blog?page=8 (Don’t become a road rage victim)
This article was prepared by Eric Sandmann in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views and opinions of Prime Meridian Direct (Pty) Ltd, FSP41040.The views and opinions in the article should not be attributed to anyone but the author unless expressly stated. Nothing in this article should be relied upon as advice, this publication is presented for informational purposes only. No person should act or refrain from acting in reliance on any information found in this article, without first obtaining proper financial advice from the appropriate professional. The author makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, or completeness, of any information linked from, referred to, or contained in this article. The author reserves the right, to edit and change the content of this article.