Road Rage II

Nothing delights a writer more than response to his or her writing: To learn that your attempt at communication has been heard. Rarely have we at Driving Today seen as much response to an article than that which filled our email inbox after our recent article on the phenomenon popularly dubbed "road rage."

The article examined the issue and asked: Is road rage really a major safety problem? After looking at several sides of the argument, we advanced the premise that while road rage is a very real phenomenon that seems to be gaining momentum, most of what is labeled "road rage" in the real world is simply discourteous, boorish behavior. Certainly, one could make the case that boorish behavior is on the rise off the highways as well as on them. As to "road rage" incidents that actually cost people their lives, those seem exceedingly rare occurrences, based on what we believe to be credible statistics. Just because these incidents are rare, however, does not mean that we at Driving Today don't see them as a problem. Any behavior that costs innocent human life is a big problem.

Because of the volume of response to the original article, and the widely varied opinions that response represented, we thought it would be useful to air many of the readers' comments in a second article on the subject. Some are frightening; some are amusing, and some, I'm sorry to say, seemed filled with rage of their own. They are reprinted here, edited by Driving Today and accompanied by my responses, when appropriate:


Dear Jack:
I came home today after driving my wife to work, having breakfast at Jimmy's where I always have breakfast, all normal patterns of my life, except I nearly died this morning. I was nearly killed by a driver with an attitude.

I had taken a different route home and was unaware of the construction taking place on a long curve in the road. I stopped for the construction sign, waited for the traffic to clear, rounded the sign and passed the men at work very slowly. The road ahead was clear in my lane. Free of signs and working men. I saw ahead there was a sign in the left hand lane that said, " Men working." It was a big sign set squarely in the middle of the lane. I also saw an on-coming RV with the young man in question approaching the sign. What warned me was the expression on his face, past experience with that expression. The RV swerved around the sign without slowing or giving way to on-coming traffic (ME!), narrowly missing a head-on collision. Like I said, my life nearly ended this morning because the rules of the road and common courtesy always applies to everyone else except the reprobate-minded.

Sincerely,
Ern



Interestingly, the man Ern described matched the "profile" of the dangerous road-rager we described in the previous article, namely, a young male who might well be prone to other violent and anti-social acts. The reader, who identified himself as a former military policeman and Georgia law enforcement officer, said he "can spot the reprobate-minded a mile away." The following reader had an equally scary story to tell.

I live in Silicon Valley, [where] you must plan your day to beat the congestion of traffic. My neighborhood is upscale; homes start at $300,000 and go up to $10 million. Now you would think the individuals who live here are intelligent and keep themselves controlled. Not so.

Recently my fiance and I came upon an incident where road rage was the blame. It all started because a male driver was traveling too close to a female driver. When the two vehicles came to a stoplight, the female got out of her RX-7, walked up to the cab of the vehicle and slapped the guy in the truck. When she went back into her vehicle, the guy in the truck came up behind her and pushed her vehicle into the intersection with his truck. All this happened while they were waiting at a red light.

This guy then took off around her, allegedly doing 70 mph, and slammed into the side of a vehicle who was making a legal left turn, killing an innocent person of 25 who was on his lunch break with one of his workers.

Let me say this, the next time you flip someone off, cut someone off, get mad or pull a gun over a road rage incident, go to Santa Clara County Jail and visit the guy who killed the 25-year-old. Every minute of the day he is begging for mercy, wishing he could change back time. Think before you react. One second can change your whole life.

[Unsigned]



Sadly, thinking before acting has become a rare trait, and the following message reinforces that point.

Hi Jack,
I have been subjected to several road rage situations that (thankfully) did not turn into real bodily harm but were headed that way. [In one] a big pickup truck tried to push me into on-coming traffic from a yield sign, and when we were both on the other highway, the guy tried to cause me to wreck. All I could do was to keep cool and let the guy go on.

Everyone is in such a hurry to get somewhere that they drive a minimum 20 miles per hour over the limit. Many pass in double yellow lined zones or don't even stop at a stoplight.

Ralph Atkins



Many instances of assault using a vehicle as a weapon are on file. Ralph also brings up a prevalent topic identified by many readers - speeding. It seems that many people get especially irritated with drivers who pass them. Here's an example of that sentiment:

It seems everyday I see more and more instances of someone driving aggressively. The root of the problem seems to be that no one allows time for traffic backups and expects to go from Point A to Point B in record-breaking time.

The posted speed limit means absolutely nothing to the drivers of today. There once was a time when you could drive down the road going the posted speed limit with everyone following you at a safe distance. Now, no matter how fast you are driving, the driver behind you just wants to be ahead of you.

A very concerned motorist
Jacksonville, Florida



Interestingly, though, our article also elicited some defenders of those who take an active approach behind the wheel.

As an aggressive driver, I take exception to the use of the term "aggressive" when speaking about road rage. In my opinion, an aggressive driver is one who is constantly watching the road ahead, looking for problems to avoid. It used to be called being a defensive driver, but with the current media hype, the term has been altered to mean someone who is a violent, unsafe driver who will shoot the nearest offender of his right to rule the road.

Yes, I take advantage of the lanes available to me on the highway, but without jeopardizing the safety of myself or the drivers around me. I take full responsibility for my actions while behind the wheel, unlike many drivers who think that driving is a "God-given right."

You've seen them, in the snow or rain, blasting along in the passing lane, blowing smoke up everyone's tailpipe as they cradle their cell-phone on their shoulder, their self-importance overriding all standards of safety. And, heaven help the person who happens to get in their way, interrupting the flow of their oblivious travels. This is not being an aggressive driver. This is being stupid, rude and obnoxious.

The violence on today's roads is scary to say the least, but we should address the violence, address the lack of driving skills, and address the attitudes of the disenfranchised. Obtaining a driving license should be far more difficult, with stricter standards of safety and skill, with medical testing to establish reaction times and other physical limitations that would impair driving ability. Anyone who reaches the proper age can get a license today, and once that paper is secured, can go forth and wreak havoc on the population with a steel monster that can devastate lives. Grouping me with those who show little regard for the safety of others is grossly negligent and unresponsive to the real problems facing the expanding world.

Thanks for letting me vent,
RMD



Finally, a couple of readers were honest about their own feelings of frustration and anger behind the wheel.

I am one who can be called road-enraged. I take it as an offense if somebody waves the finger at me, and it is returned. If he gets aggressive enough to climb out of his car, I am prepared to shoot. But so far, no one has gone far enough to [force me] to defend myself.

I am now 66 years old. I think it's a question of personal self-defense. I don't know what the other drivers think, but one thing is for sure...in a day where honor is just a word, I will still die to uphold honor in the way I live.

[Unsigned]


Mr. Nerad,
It seems that anything spoken of road rage is always slanted (go figure) at the "mad" driver. I have owned and operated an oversize-load escort service for 19 years and put between 60,000 and 70,000 miles on my vehicle a year. I will be honest and admit at the outset, I GET MAD.

Take for example the Ohio State Trooper who was on a load with us in Akron. Our little parade was stretched out about a mile on I-76. We were going to go south on I-77, when this trooper shot down the entrance ramp and as soon as he got to the end of the ramp, he moved over to the right lane and came to a DEAD STOP!!

How about the people sailing down the far left lane only to go directly to the exit that they take every night...probably across the same three or four lanes of high-speed traffic? I guess if people get really mad about stuff like that, then road rage is wrong. The funny part is I had to take a test to get my license, but I'm not convinced that very many other people did.

Thanks, Ron Hansotte
L.R.H. Escorting
New Castle, Pa



And that may represent the majority view, namely, my driving is fine; others' driving is atrocious. I have no doubt that people like Ron are good drivers who get upset with the poorer quality driving others exhibit. It's what they do with the anger that is important. If that anger engenders retaliation in kind, then it is very wrong and very dangerous. If it engenders violence, it is not only dangerous; it is criminal. And criminal behavior is the real threat of the road rage phenomenon.


-- Jack Nerad

Jack R. Nerad commutes every day in the city many see as the road rage capital of America: Los Angeles, California.