Following Steven Bailey’s article on road rage in the Capital last week, I considered my own experiences on our roads. I strongly agree with Bailey’s call for greater police presence on the road. It’s an absolute necessity, especially in wet weather when people drive like maniacs, but also for the police to crack down on hostile behaviour from drivers.
Most people associate the phrase ‘road rage’ with the token aggressive horn tooting, abuse across lanes and middle fingers out windows. As far as I was aware, extreme cases of road rage that result in a physical confrontation are usually quite rare and I never thought I would be the victim of this kind of altercation.
In December last year, I was driving through Kingston on a rainy Sunday afternoon with my partner looking for a car spot. The speed limit on Jardine Street is 50 kilometres per hour and given the weather conditions, I was probably driving 40-45 kilometres per hour. As I approached the t-intersection of Jardine and Eyre Street the car behind me started going crazy flashing their lights, beeping their horn and waving their arms around like there was no tomorrow.
At first I didn’t realise that this behaviour was aimed towards me as I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I hadn’t braked suddenly for no reason and I wasn’t driving radically. I kept driving and started to turn right onto Eyre Street. As there was a string of parked cars restricting my vision, I inched out slowly as to not create a collision with any oncoming traffic. The beeping and the waving continued. I chose to ignore it and pulled into the big parking lot opposite the Cusack Centre. The car followed me, sped around the carpark easily doing 60 kilometres per hour and cut me off as I parked.
My partner asked what I was going to do and I said we’d get out of the car and walk to the shops like we had planned. I assumed the guy in the car would just drive off. I was wrong. As we were walking across the carpark, he got out of his car and ran up to us screaming in our faces. Suprisingly the first thing he said to me was “why did you take so long to turn at the t-intersection?!” I let him have it back, which I don’t think he expected. The abuse from him continued with him making several threats of violence towards my partner and I, plus a whole string of undesirable profanities. He stood within inches of me and I was bracing myself for a punch in the face.
Eventually he got sick of screaming at me and got back in his car. We got plenty of photos and a good description. I am forever kicking myself for not filming his outburst.
My immediate thought was to call the police, but felt guilty about wasting police resources so I called the Police Assistance Line (131 444). They were excellent and asked that we visit the station as soon as possible to make a formal statement. The statement was made and a week later we were called back to identify the perpetrator in a visual line up.
One officer told me that a lot of road rage victims don’t tend to make a police report after they’ve had an extreme confrontation because they don’t believe it’s worthy of police time, but that they absolutely should report these instances to police. The guy that abused me turned out to have a long string of driving offences and had been convicted of offensive behaviour on the roads previously. The police officer told me that if anything like this happens to me again I should not hesitate in calling the police as soon as I can and they’ll send a squad car if there’s one available.
If you experience anything similar to what I went through, I plead with you to make a formal police report. I’m fortunate that I am able to stand my ground and not cower away from someone screaming abuse in my face, but what if I was an elderly person or just a timid individual who doesn’t handle confrontation well? Innocent people should not have to put up with unwarranted abuse.