I never thought I’d say it, but the streets of Canberra seem to be becoming meaner these days. In the last month, I’ve experienced or been told about incidents on the roads that are more than just annoying, they are borderline sinister if not illegal.
A few weeks ago, a car tailgated me while I was driving at the speed limit on the Barton Highway, coming from Murrumbateman to Gungahlin. The driver ducked around me at a lane merge and went over the double lines to cut in front of me. I beeped my horn (because it was flat out dangerous). He slammed on his brakes – causing my car to skid to a halt and my passengers to dangerously jolt into their seat belts before he sped off. I was shell shocked. It was more than just aggressive, it was downright dangerous.
Then this week, a friend was driving behind a car towing a trailer with various items in it when one of the tables stacked on its side flew out of the trailer and impaled her car, jamming into the radiator. By some immense fortune, the car didn’t flip or skid, and she was able to stop without being injured. But the other driver drove off! They didn’t even check to see if she was OK and uninjured. They were clearly more concerned about avoiding a fine for their unsecured load. My friend is stuck with a massive bill and no witnesses.
And on another recent occasion, on the Federal Highway as it filters into Watson, I watched a car and a motorcycle engaged in a clear bout of mutual road rage, careening around each other, with the car getting closer and closer to the motorcycle in a way that looked extraordinarily dangerous. Both were clearly at fault, but the consequences could have been extremely dire, and the risk didn’t seem worth them making whatever point it was they were trying to.
Are we losing sight of how dangerous the roads can be and letting our emotions take over? These incidents are genuinely scary because any of them could have resulted in death if just one thing went wrong – if the road was a little slippery, if the car tyres were just on the wrong side of worn out, if the driver was a little less capable …
After the near-miss with the rude driver who cut me off and then almost caused a collision, I was jumpy in my car for weeks, scared that I would somehow offend another driver and have them react in an equally extreme way.
But those nerves are nothing compared to when I tow a horse float, which I do most weekends.
I anticipate people speeding past me, cutting in front because, God forbid, their schedule be put back by the two minutes they might have to wait to overtake safely. It puts us all in danger and really doesn’t seem worth it.
Maybe it’s always been like this, but compared to driving in other cities, I always felt Canberra drivers were generally more reasonable and calm. Our lack of traffic (compared to bigger cities) created a more sensible culture of driving because everyone can always get where they need to go, and usually within 20 minutes.
Is it just me, or are drivers getting more aggressive? Are we becoming complacent about how risky dangerous driving is and the consequences it can have? Do we need to change the way we monitor and police the roads, or is it time I invest in a dashcam and assume the responsibility myself?