Road rage is a sign of the times. We live in an age of high stress. And, ironically, the technology meant to make our lives easier has just increased the stress levels. Emails from work come in at 9 pm just as you’re unwinding in front of the TV. We’re expected to respond urgently to every WhatsApp and Messenger message. And a cellphone means you’re always in arm’s reach of whoever wants to harass you.
Sign of the times.
Yet even more ironically, we’re expected to be in a million places at once. Meetings are scheduled back-to-back. And getting anywhere on time is largely in the hands of the Gods. Traffic lights out – possibly due to sabotage by smash-and-grab gangs. Accidents on the streets. Road works. Roadblocks – at peak hour traffic! And our personal peeve, someone unnecessarily driving slow in the fast lane.
All these things combine to create a cocktail of volatility that can explode at any given moment.
Ask any victim of a road rage incident – even if it didn’t escalate further than someone following you around and hooting angrily – and they’ll tell you it’s scary stuff.
And it can escalate. Badly.
It just takes one hothead armed with a weapon to lose it, even for a brief moment, and your life is in danger.
While we don’t believe in victim-blaming, there are still precautions you can take to avoid setting someone off.
Don’t drive slow in the fast lane.
The fast lane is called the fast lane for a reason. It’s supposed to be for people who want to (hopefully) go to the maximum speed limit. It serves a purpose in keeping the flow of traffic going faster so the metaphorical artery of our roads doesn’t get clogged up. If you’re planning on turning right but you don’t like driving fast, it’s best to wait until you’re closer than two blocks down from the turn before you shift to the right lane.
Don’t deliberately keep speed with the driver in the other lane.
People might be in a rush, but that isn’t your business. If they want to be in a rush, let them be in a rush. People in a hurry like to weave through traffic. Other people get satisfaction in aligning their speed with the driver next to them to make it impossible for these drivers to weave. Effectively trapping and frustrating them. If they’re running late and stressed out, it could set them off.
Always do your checks and don’t take chances.
When you’re at a stop street and want to turn into the adjacent road, don’t forget to look in all directions. And you want to avoid pulling off when a driver is too close and force them to brake to avoid hitting you. That’s the general rule. If the person has to decelerate in order for you to get onto the road, then don’t do it. Rather wait, no matter how frustrating it might be for you.
Be courteous at a four-way stop.
The rule with four-way stops is: you come to a complete stop. Only then may you proceed. And whichever driver stops first gets to go first. If another driver is going to stop at his side first, don’t hit the accelerator and floor it through the stop without stopping yourself. They might be about to go and feel aggrieved by the discourtesy (and illegal) move. Similarly, resist the temptation to immediately follow the driver ahead of you as he or she drives forward, as the other driver whose turn it actually is might get exacerbated. We’ve once been in a situation (by non-working traffic lights, which operate the same way as a four-way stop) where two cars did this following the driver who had the legal right to go. Yet they brazenly drove through anyway. We didn’t get road rage, but we were certainly annoyed.
If you prang someone in an accident, don’t attempt to drive away.
Firstly, it’s illegal. Even though these may be trying times, you still owe it to the other driver to stop, assess the damage, and exchange contact details. Attempting to flee to avoid responsibility may result in a dangerous pursuit – which could result in a worse accident or a disastrous confrontation if the other driver catches up with you.
Don’t block off access to or from adjacent streets.
If you’re in a queue of cars and you’re moving forward, keep a gap open for cars who want to drive across the road. Blocking them off is just going to frustrate them, especially if it takes a while for the queue to get moving. Similarly, entrances to malls or complexes shouldn’t be blocked off either.
Park between the lines.
This one technically isn’t on the road, but if you’re in a rush, and you park, still check you’ve parked in a way that allows another driver to park in the bay next to yours. If you have parked badly, i.e. at an angle that involves your car being over the line, making it difficult for someone else to park in the neighbouring bay, take the time to straighten out. There’s nothing more frustrating to someone desperate for parking to spot the one next to yours, only to realise on closer inspection that you’ve effectively made it impossible to park there.
You may not see the person, but you may notice one of your tyres is deflated. Or a new scratch on the side of your car.
If you need help staying within the lines, we can recommend you start with a colouring-in book.