It’s been a while since I’ve encountered a real example of road rage, and it got me thinking – when has this happened to you?
The other evening I was driving home, after a trip to the chemist no less, to pick up all the drugs to treat my first decent flu of the season.
Turning left out of the main street of Queanbeyan – diagonally opposite the police station – I had a red turn light that remained while the main light was green.
This was not good news for the person in the large white dual-cab ute behind me, who was clearly very important and in a serious rush.
When the light turned green, he or she waited precisely no seconds to sit on the horn.
And I mean, literally, as soon as the light changed – with pedestrians still on the crossing – old mate was hard on that horn.
I really do try not to aggravate people on the roads, most of the time. Previously, anyone who has beeped me when I have been too slow to move off has gotten a quick response and an apologetic wave.
But in this situation, I did what I think any sane person would do: I took that corner more cautiously (read: slowly) than I normally would. Because I’m not going to be rushed into a dangerous situation.
Obviously, this was a huge affront to Quicky McHornface behind me, who proceeded to follow me, tailgating and high-beaming all the way to my home street. A good 15 minutes drive away, in total.
That’s some serious commitment. Who is in such a rush, but can afford to go that far out of their way?
I’m sure I was dealing with a 17 year old with feelings of inadequacy and a big hormonal chip on their shoulder. I think he (or she!?) was doing their best to intimidate me, and they might have succeeded if I was alone or feeling vulnerable.
Fortunately, this was not the case – if only they knew how much my passenger and I were laughing at them from inside our cabin.
Just last week, some twerp overtook me (and about three other cars) at about 40kms above the speed limit, in the inside turning lane, before cutting off a line of other cars and very nearly causing a major accident.
It was irritating, but it didn’t occur to me to follow them and seek revenge. Quite the contrary – I was happy for him or her to get as far away from me as possible.
But you’ve gotta wonder – why are these people so angry?
Here in Canberra, for example, we reside in one of the most liveable cities in the world. We have good socio-economic conditions, good-quality roads and pretty reasonable commutes by most standards.
Why are some of us so mad?
It’d be easy to blame the pace and stress of modern life. But road rage isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, it was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s first full-length feature film as a director, the 1971 classic, Duel.
I’m not sure if road rage is becoming more common, or we’re just hearing more about it.
Google it, and you’ll find news stories about angry drivers ploughing through fences and multiple vehicles, abusing truckies and climbing onto their vehicles, and wild all-in brawls on the road.
The most likely reason seems to come down to individual personalities.
Last year, researchers from the University of Queensland School of Psychology found a clear link between driver aggression and narcissistic personality traits (which include a lack of empathy, need for admiration, sense of entitlement and willingness to exploit others to achieve one’s own ends).
Notably, the researchers also found those who reported experiencing driver aggression – either as a victim or perpetrator – were 158 times more likely to report having been involved in a crash. Yikes.
So it’s not just a matter of harmlessly blowing off some steam. There are real consequences here. This guy lost his job, but he might be considered lucky – others have been hurt, or even killed.
Finally, let’s not forget, mobile phone cameras and the increasing proliferation of dash cams mean you’re more and more unlikely to get away with bad behaviour. If the police don’t catch you, the Canberra driving community will be only too pleased to name and shame you on the internet.
How can it possibly be worth it?
Over to you – what’s the worst example of road rage you’ve seen or experienced? And if you’re feeling brave – have you ever been guilty of overreacting and regretting it later?