Road Rage – some home truths, and some myths dispelled

Road rage. We’ve all heard of it, but how many of us have actually been caught up in it? Most car drivers will have witnessed, been the victim of, or even carried out, an act of road rage at some time in their driving career. If you have, you are unlikely to forget the experience, at least not for a long time.

Traffic jam

Road rage incidents can vary in type and intensity, of course, just as the people involved can react differently. And the nightmare of being the victim in a road rage attack can last well beyond the actual incident itself; if it goes to court; if the aggressive party involved decides to continue to be hostile, after the actual event; and if, heaven forbid, injuries sustained in the road rage incident mean a period of recovery or even hospitalisation is necessary. Anyone can be involved in these incidents – whether they’re on the receiving end, or the person “raging”.

Peter’s story

If you’ve been targeted in a road rage attack (verbal or physical), the whole incident will most likely have “come from nowhere”‘, as it did to Peter in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire last summer:

One moment I was waiting at a junction, thinking, admittedly, about what to have for tea once I got home, the next I had a heavily built, shaven-headed snarling Pit Bull of a man banging furiously on my driver’s side door and trying to open it. He was grabbing manically at the handle, his eyes blazing and the veins at his temples bulging. It was utterly terrifying. I still can’t get his fuming face out of my mind.”

Forms of road rage

Road rage is usually thought of as aggressive driving at the extreme, with a targeted motorist being put under threat. But other types exist, and they are seen every day of the week on Britain’s roads: verbal abuse, rude hand gestures (and making threats with hand movements), deliberate erratic driving, ramming from behind, determined sideways collisions, bullish overtaking and then boxing in… And the more our roads become congested, incidents of road rage increase exponentially. Anyone can get a car these days, you don’t have to be psychologically tested in order to be a driver and none of us really know what will push us from being loving, friendly, reasonable human beings into snarly monsters!

Before moving on to another case study, let’s bust some myths about road rage. According to surveys:

  • Most incidents involve an archetypical white van man. Not so, only 13 per cent of incidents is the real figure. OK, that’s still a lot, but nowhere near the level one would perhaps expect.
  • One in two people has been a road rage victim at some point. Incredibly, the real figure is 9 in ten motorists in the UK. Imagine that.
  • Road rage in the UK is nothing like as bad as in the USA, where the term Road Rage was first coined. Not so. To our shame, Britain ‘leads the World’ when it comes to road rage.
  • Most road rage perpetrators feel guilty about their actions afterwards, i.e. once they’ve cooled down and reflected on their appalling behaviour. On the contrary; most people who commit road rage feel that their behaviour was justified, with some even claiming to have “enjoyed” the experience, particularly in situations where their targeted victim overtook them or where there had been a dispute over a parking space.
  • Victims of road rage are less likely to later perpetrate the crime themselves. Not true.
  • Road rage most commonly occurs in the mornings, when motorists are trying to get to work (and are in ‘bear with a sore head/got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning’ mode). This is also inaccurate. More incidents of road rage occur in the afternoons and evenings than in the morning rush hour or other peak times.
Source: Mail Online/Max Power

Kelly’s story

Last autumn, my little Nissan Micra K11 was rammed at traffic lights by a Ford Mondeo going at twice the legal limit in an idyllic rural village,” explains Kelly in Harrow. “What was really strange about it all – perhaps the most shocking aspect in fact – was that it was a peaceful and quiet afternoon, not the rush hour. There was no reason whatsoever for the offending motorist to lose his temper with me.

How to best handle it all

If next time you drive you become the victim of a road rage attack, chances are that you’ll be on the receiving end of verbal abuse and be ‘treated’ to a sudden flurry of rude hand gesticulations by the perpetrator, rather than suffering some kind of physical assault.

So, what exactly should you do if you’re targeted by a ‘road rager’?

  • Try to stay calm. Yes, that may seem easier said than done, but it can make a huge difference to your overall experience of a road rage attack, and you coming out of it, for the most part, unscathed. Breathe through your stomach and count to ten. Over and over.
  • Remain focused on the road, concentrating on continuing to drive safely. The aggressor would like nothing more than to see you lose control of your car, so don’t give them the satisfaction. Try to keep your attention on what’s happening around you and don’t get lulled into a false sense of security – especially on roads you drive every day.
  • Your own anger won’t change the situation; in fact, it will probably just inflame it. So, choose to do the difficult thing. Stay calm. Don’t rise to the bait. Don’t return the road rage perpetrator’s fury.
  • Remember that the law will be on your side, as will most witnesses to the incident. So, you are not actually alone in a road rage situation, although it may feel like that at the time.

Finally, and as mad as this may sound, try to put yourselves in the other driver’s position. Imagine that they have received bad news, or are rushing to a hospital’s A&E department, or to the scene of fire, or even to the maternity ward to see their first born. By emotionally moving towards that person, you’ll find it difficult to summon, or to at least maintain, your returned anger. Yes, it is natural to rebel in such a situation, but keeping your cool will pay off, and you’ll feel great about yourself afterwards. Promise!