Canberra road rage: Machetes, assaults, abuse and a culture of entitlement

Glynis Quinlan 11 June 2018 65
Road rage

There have been a string of road rage incidents in Canberra in the last few months – with three in the past month alone.

A man forcing a car to stop in Hughes and then striking it, a female driver assaulted after a collision in Conder, an assault while two cars are stopped at the traffic lights in Braddon, the road rage version of dodgem cars in Belconnen, a station wagon ramming a car in Mitchell with the driver then striking the car with a machete… these are among the string of road rage incidents which have taken place in Canberra in the last few years.

The past month alone saw a black Toyota Kluger deliberately veering into a smaller car in Kambah and two drivers abusing each other after a crash on Ginninderra Drive, while in Queanbeyan a 70-year-old motorist was struck in the back of the head with a garden shovel.

Then there is the tailgating, the rude gestures, the honking and the verbal abuse which never makes the police radar.

Despite the growing use of dash-cams and the likelihood that road rage offences will be ‘caught on camera’, the road rage in Canberra and surrounds shows no signs of lessening.

It is difficult to determine whether road rage is increasing in Canberra as ACT Policing does not keep any separate statistics on the issue because it encompasses a broad range of offences from traffic offences to property damage to assault.

However, the regularity of news reports on road rage attacks and incidents means it continues to be a major issue on our roads.

Motorists engaging in road rage need to be held accountable

ACT Officer-in-charge of Traffic Operations, Station Sergeant Marcus Boorman is emphatic that people who engage in road rage don’t belong on Canberra’s roads and should be held accountable.

“The term road rage is very broad. If people engage in conduct that is dangerous, not only do they commit some significant and serious traffic offences, they will be subjected to criminal offences,” Station Sergeant Boorman said in an interview with The RiotACT.

ACT Officer-in-charge of Traffic Operations, Station Sergeant Marcus Boorman is emphatic that people who engage in road rage don’t belong on Canberra’s roads. Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

He said he believes many people don’t report road rage incidents because they think there’s nothing that can be done but that isn’t the case.

“What I would do is encourage people that if they’re ever involved in any sort of incident like this or observe dangerous driving or erratic behaviour on the road, to report it to police but in doing so, give us as much information as they can,” Station Sergeant Boorman said.

“One of the key issues is the registration plate of the vehicle involved because that gives us somewhere to start.

“We will do everything we can. I wouldn’t like anyone to be intimidated on the road.”

Station Sergeant Boorman said that if there is enough evidence then the police will prosecute but if there isn’t then they can still talk to offenders and that may stop something else from happening down the track.

“It’s paramount that you keep yourself and the occupants of your car safe and so don’t engage, take down the details and call the police.”

Canberra’s car culture of impatience and entitlement

The RiotACT asked Station Sergeant Boorman if he thought Canberra had a different ‘car culture’ to other places which contributes to road rage.

He agreed, saying that Canberra drivers have problems with patience and a sense of entitlement.

“We have a very good road network around the ACT and we don’t have the volume of traffic that other big capital cities do and so our gridlocks aren’t like Sydney and Melbourne,” Station Sergeant Boorman said.

“I think Canberrans are used to getting everywhere fairly quickly, they don’t have to travel great distances and I think sometimes they get a little bit frustrated when they’re slightly inconvenienced.

“I think another issue in the ACT which can cause road rage incidents is people who want to travel so closely behind the car in front. I’ll just push this person along, push this person along – they tailgate. So that person slows down, so they get frustrated and they make poor decisions.”

Photo of driver honking in traffic

Station Sergeant Boorman believes Canberra motorists are used to travelling everywhere quickly and get frustrated if they are slightly inconvenienced.

However, Station Sergeant doesn’t think Canberra is any worse than other places when it came to ‘hoons’.

“I wouldn’t say in Canberra that we have a hoon culture or a particular road rage culture,” he said.

“Unfortunately there is a certain idiot element in any community and especially when it comes to driving cars.”

Driving a two-tonne weapon

Station Sergeant Boorman said that some drivers forget when they get in a car that “nine times out of 10 you’re driving a two-tonne weapon basically”.

“I think some drivers have a real disconnect with reality sometimes when they are driving cars because they don’t stop to think what the reality will be if they travel at an excessive speed and all of a sudden they have to come to a sudden stop,” he said.

Road rage is common and often seen by children

One of the most recent studies on road rage applying to the ACT reveals that it is not only common here but it is also frequently witnessed by children.

A survey of 1,300 people in NSW and the ACT conducted by the NRMA in June 2015 found that over 70 per cent of motorists had been exposed to road rage in the previous 12 months and that almost one-quarter (22 per cent) of incidents occurred when children under the age of 15 were present.

The survey also found that almost one-in-five (19 per cent) of motorists admitted to committing road rage.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said no form of road rage was acceptable, especially when there were children present.

“It is frightening how quickly a moment of road rage can escalate into an impulse action that ruins lives, or worse, takes them away,” Mr Khoury said.

“This NRMA research serves as a timely reminder that it’s far better to take a deep breath and count to 10, rather than lose control behind the wheel.

“The NRMA is also concerned about the fact that so many cases of road rage occur when children are in the car.

“Aside from the obvious distress this could cause them, when the perpetrator is behind the wheel of the car they are in it also sets a terrible example.”

The personality traits fuelling road rage

A 2014 study by then Australian National University researchers Vanessa Beanland and Martin Sellbom looked at some of the personality traits that can fuel road rage – including the traits of people who engage in road rage and the traits of those whose driving errors may unintentionally spark road rage.

“Not surprisingly, deliberate driving violations were best predicted by the traits of impulsivity, irresponsibility, risk-taking and hostility, whereas tendencies towards experiencing negative emotions – such as anxiety, brooding and emotional instability – were the strongest predictors of attentional lapses and driving mistakes,” Ms Beanland and Mr Sellbom wrote in an article about their findings, first published in The Conversation.

Young male drivers the most aggressive

Young male drivers

Younger male drivers aged between 22 and 39 are the most aggressive on our roads.

Younger male drivers aged between 22 and 39 are the most likely to exhibit extreme aggression according to a 2017 national study into aggressive driving on Australian roads by Monash University Accident Research Centre.

The study found that 36 per cent of male drivers in this age group reported having chased another driver when angry at least once.

“Aggressive driving was associated with drink-driving, speeding, and the use of a hand-held phone, suggesting it may be part of a larger suite of problem behaviours,” the report said.

The report found that aggressive driving was prevalent in Australia and that there was an association between this aggression and being involved in crashes, with 96 per cent of drivers involved in a crash also reporting aggressive behaviour.

Do you think road rage is getting worse on Canberra’s roads? Is Canberra’s culture fuelling this? Let us know about your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

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65 Responses to Canberra road rage: Machetes, assaults, abuse and a culture of entitlement
Marko Lehikoinen Marko Lehikoinen 4:09 pm 19 Jun 18

So, why are the people whose job it is, never present on our roads? In the absence of police, how else are bad drivers going to learn the rules? A gentle hint with a beep from the horn or a flash of headlights does absolutely zip, because they aren't even aware of their surroundings.

Marko Lehikoinen Marko Lehikoinen 1:15 pm 17 Jun 18

Biggest cause of road rage is the instigator, ofte the person driving 10kays below the limit in tge right hand lane preventing anyone from doing the limit. It is illegal in speed zones above 80km/h but nobody seems to realise it. KEEP LEFT UNLESS OVERTAKING! Also, in general you should keep to the left anyway, it is called courtesy. People wonder why they're being tailgated, well look at your own behaviour before judging the car behind that is trying to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

    Marko Lehikoinen Marko Lehikoinen 5:01 pm 18 Jun 18

    ALWAYS be some? More like ALWAYS be a whole road full of them. Accepting is one thing, but tolerating it day in and day out isn't. I drove the Parkes way this afternoon as I do every afternoon and there were a good 12 or more cars in the right hand lane doing 80 or less, despite a 90km/h limit. The offender/s out the front, an old granny and a diplomatic car. Seriously, there needs to be a complete re-test on every driver on our roads, myself included. It might clear the roads of the incompetent ACT drivers. Then we have to do something about all the interstate morons.

Debra Ann Debra Ann 6:04 am 16 Jun 18

Jennifer Cairncross going down a one way street the wrong way 😱

GarryB GarryB 2:35 pm 15 Jun 18

A lot of salutary contributions here especially from those who’ve experienced road rage and trauma. In addition, I think we should remember that although access to private transport is almost a necessity in Canberra, it is a privilege, not a right. We are granted a license to drive (if we pass the tests) and we must drive not only according to the letter of the law but with competence and courtesy.

If we can’t be competent, we should give up driving no matter how much we need to use a car. If we are too tentative when merging for example, there is a high risk of a crash. Someone will come up from behind too fast without realising we have stopped which, of course puts them into the wrong – but, we contributed to the situation and must accept that and its consequences. Driving slowly is often criticised. But, it is lawful and often necessary. Conversely, it is not our right to impede others. If we are holding up traffic it’s only sensible to move over or park safely, if we can, to wait for the others to pass.

If we can’t be courteous similarly we should not drive or we will be on the giving/receiving end of an accident. We need to accept that other drivers may be forgetful, distracted, tired, drunk, incompetent, lazy, self-centred (ie. just as in other parts of life). Sometimes, the slow driver can’t safely park and let us pass or they are selfish bores who just don’t care of the effect of their actions on others. Either way, with courtesy rather than the finger, we will get to our destination, in time, which is better than not at all.

Jason Kitson Jason Kitson 9:30 pm 14 Jun 18

I think a lot of the aggressive driving comes from people who find the road is the only outlet to vent their frustrations. That quiet person at work? Your partner? Family member? They are all potentially one of those tail gating lunatics we all battle against daily.


    Setho Ranks Setho Ranks 1:21 pm 15 Jun 18

    And beat them severely on the side of the road!🔧🔨

    Jason Kitson Jason Kitson 3:02 pm 15 Jun 18

    Setho Ranks Exactly. The only way to stop road rage is with violence.

    When police disarm a bomb they use explosives right?

    See the connection?

    Setho Ranks Setho Ranks 4:37 pm 15 Jun 18

    Violence is the only solution, even when it's not.

Caroline Fraser Caroline Fraser 3:56 pm 14 Jun 18

Youngest son is a Learner and the amount of dangerous, bullying road rage he encounters is appalling. I lock my car door when I drive alone, especially at night.

bigred bigred 7:05 pm 13 Jun 18

Has anyone else noticed that whenever a topic on road safety related issues emerges here it attracts a large number of responses that pretty much say the government is doing nothing and the police are missing in action.

So where are the elected representatives or responsible ministers? They are presiding over large scale lawlessness, if the views expressed here are correct.

Malcolm Grieve Malcolm Grieve 4:19 pm 13 Jun 18

I no longer drive a car. Buses work.

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 1:28 pm 13 Jun 18

What’s that old saying? “Anyone who drives slower than me is an idiot. Anyone who drives faster than me is a lunatic.”

    Crazed_Loner Crazed_Loner 9:45 am 20 Jun 18

    Pretty much. Thanks, George Carlin for nailing it.

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 1:27 pm 13 Jun 18

There is a lot to be said – when you’re the motorist who inadvertently does wrong to another – for acknowledging your conduct with a ‘sorry’ wave. That said, do so with all five fingers, less you give the impressing you’re extending the finger.

Mick Robinson Mick Robinson 12:30 pm 13 Jun 18

Perhaps it's the general culture of entitlement that is pervasive in Canberra boiling over on the roads.

James Alan Nguyen James Alan Nguyen 8:13 am 13 Jun 18

there's plenty reason to road rage if you were nearly taken out by a car driving with NO HEADLIGHTS VISIBLE on Canberra Ave at speed (80km/h) at like 9.30PM

Jeffrey Brown Jeffrey Brown 7:13 am 13 Jun 18

Might need to see if there is a correlation between drugs and road rage....

Berenice Chong Berenice Chong 12:55 am 13 Jun 18

Road rage is caused by a sense of entitlement and people refusing to take responsibility for their actions - not car culture. And this mentality seems to becoming more common everywhere, not just on the roads. I think road rage is just going to get worse because that's how people are when they don't have to face any real consequences for what they do.

Gez Whelan Gez Whelan 11:26 pm 12 Jun 18

Lived here in ACT for over 15years now and have to agree Canberrans are the most narcissistic self entitled drivers in Australia 🇦🇺

I'm embarrassed to drive outside ACT in a car with ACT plates; you can place a bet and win almost every time when you see someone driving slow in the Right hand lane, odds are 15:1 that it's a Canberran..

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 8:26 am 13 Jun 18

    I don't like to make those presumptions, or I could say that every time I drive east out of Adelaide there are slow SA cars in the right hand lane. As there was my most recent visit, a few days ago. Not just one slow driver hogging the right lane either. Every visit this has happened. They were not ACT plates. Good and bad drivers everywhere. Also I found some did not move over to the right lane as I came up the ramp from the left, but that happens elsewhere too. (Although I was a amazed coming up the ramp onto a major road into New York city, the drivers moved over on mass to let me in...must have been forewarned this dangerous Australian driver was on the way 🤣)

    Obi Wan Obi Wan 10:45 pm 14 Jun 18

    American drivers are a lot more disciplined than Australian drivers. Also it is a matter of traffic rules not being teached right, another day I got a finger from a learner just because tried to rightly overtake him, I wonder what kind of person was supervising him. Canberra being overpopulated also contributes to this kind of behaviour.

Joanna Van-Lane Joanna Van-Lane 10:10 pm 12 Jun 18

Yup, my Partner stopped to help get a huge Roo that was badly injured off Yamba today around 4pm. An older lady stopped and put on her hazards to protect him and the young school kid who were trying to keep it out of traffic and witnessed her being repeatedly abused while waiting for a Ranger. It was distressing.

Robert Knight Robert Knight 8:47 pm 12 Jun 18

Has anyone ever considered flipping the bird, or calling someone names, if they happen to bump into them when walking down the street? How about getting stuck behind the slow walkers in the shops? Considered running them into wall for getting in your way?

I’m tipping no.

The difference is the visual cues, and the rigid rules. When you interact with people face to face you’re presented with another human. You see their body language and you can look them in the eye. Pedestrian interactions are also informal and chaotic.

When driving however, you lose those visual cues, and you’re presented with a set of rigid rules in how we move about. One transgression of those rules is enough to set some people off. Add speed to the mix and voila, road rage.

My thoughts? Stop spending stupid amounts of money on roads and start investing in active transport, and better land use planning.

    Rowan Haigh Rowan Haigh 7:17 am 13 Jun 18

    The Oatmeal has a perfect comic of exactly how you’ve described road vs pedestrian interactions:

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 10:39 am 13 Jun 18

    Rarely catalyses into physical confrontation though Renea.

dukethunder dukethunder 8:27 pm 12 Jun 18

“The report found that aggressive driving was prevalent in Australia and that there was an association between this aggression and being involved in crashes, with 96 per cent of drivers involved in a crash also reporting aggressive behaviour.” Aggression after a traumatic incident that evokes our basal insticts!!!? Omg!!! In general, fund psych’s/counselors not traffic cops.

Renga Rajan Renga Rajan 8:05 pm 12 Jun 18

Tailgating is a big problem here in the ACT. I call them 'ass-sniffers' :)

Alanna Davis Alanna Davis 6:41 pm 12 Jun 18

I am driving on the road with trauma from a car crash. Sometimes I drive at 70 instead of 80, especially when it is dark or raining. Sometimes I get scared at roundabouts and intersections. To all the people cutting me off, flipping the bird and abusing me, you’ve no idea the trauma I carry around. I wouldn’t be carrying this trauma if the woman who caused it didn’t break the law, I didn’t make a conscious decision to be this way. Your abusive behaviour does not help me, it only makes it worse. Perhaps you could appreciate you don’t know what others are experiencing.

And guess what, your destination isn’t going anywhere.

    Louise McIntosh Louise McIntosh 6:52 pm 12 Jun 18

    That’s a good point and a really important thing to consider. Sorry you have to carry such trauma.

    Alanna Davis Alanna Davis 7:30 pm 12 Jun 18

    Yes I should be driving, Sophia. While I appreciate your chain of thoughts, that’s a very insensitive comment. I didn’t cause my situation so why should I give up my right to drive because I drive with more caution than others? I’m able to judge my own level of ability and am probably a lot more safe on the road than many others, which is demonstrated by the very fact that this article exists in the first reason.

    Glynis Quinlan Glynis Quinlan 7:43 pm 12 Jun 18

    It's so awful that you had to go through such a horrible ordeal and see the effect on your son, Alanna. My utmost sympathies and I am sure your caution makes you one of the better drivers on the road. Take care.

    Alanna Davis Alanna Davis 8:09 pm 12 Jun 18

    Thank you, Glynis. And thank you for your support in the immediate time afterwards. 🙏🏻

    Glynis Quinlan Glynis Quinlan 9:41 pm 12 Jun 18

    Alanna Davis it was a pleasure. We really felt for you - you were very courageous in doing so much to support your son in the middle of a horrible ordeal. I am sure it made a big difference and so hope he is doing well now.

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