Sunday, February 21, 2010

Recognizing Road Rage

Recipe for road rage

If you drive an automobile, you’ve probably experienced rude behavior on the road. We live in a self-important, “Me First” society and road rage is just one symptom.

Roots of rage
 Ask a group of kids to line up for an activity (or even a sip of water at a drinking fountain) and you’ll more than likely see them running to be first (sometimes pushing and shoving to get their place in line). This highly competitive spirit is what I refer to as the “Me First” scenario.

 Aggressive driver behavior

Now, flash forward that scenario 10 or 20 years and you’ll see that same kid now grown, but still “pushing and shoving” to get in line with his or her vehicle, all the while aggravating nearly everyone with whom they come into contact. I believe that aggressive behavior from some drivers is compounded by the feeling that they view their car as a “comfort zone” (much like home, work, or school). As a result of being in their comfort zone, they tend to act a little braver than they would if they were standing next to you on the sidewalk.
Comfort equals confrontation

Think about that for a moment. Two people who narrowly miss each other with shopping carts in a store are very unlikely to be confrontational (yelling profanity, name calling, threats, or flipping the bird) but get those same two people behind the wheel of their vehicles and aggressive behavior is much more likely to erupt. Oftentimes, the most civil of people can find themselves engaged in ridiculous (even childish) behavior. Aggressive road rage behavior can quickly escalate out of control.

Rage happens on our roadways

Sometimes people feel the need to teach someone a lesson. They may go so far as to follow the target of their rage and confront them face to face. Other times, both parties agree to pull over and have it out. These encounters often erupt into violent episodes. In several documented cases, conflict escalated to assault with a deadly weapon and ended with someone hospitalized or dead at the hands of an enraged driver. To make matters worse, this often happens with children in the vehicle.

Avoiding road rage

To avoid getting involved in a hostile situation, practice being a careful and courteous driver. The more aggressive you are behind the wheel, the more likely you are to become involved in a road rage scenario. If you do aggravate someone while driving, be apologetic. I’ve been cut off in traffic, and then had the other driver flash a rude gesture at me just for shaking my head at them.

Never pull over

Never pull over to have it out with someone. You don’t know what their mental state might be. They could have just lost a job, been involved in a family dispute or simply be in less than total control of their emotions at the time. You never know if they have weapons of any kind stowed away somewhere in their vehicle. If you believe you’re being followed, drive to a busy location, (gas station, convenience store, anywhere with lots of people), or continue driving on a busy road (again lots of people around) and dial 911. Give the dispatcher your location and a mile marker or exit number so that they can easily find you.

Courtesy is contagious

Courteous driving is contagious. If you let someone merge into traffic (most of the time) they will be grateful. More often than not, they will then pass that behavior on to other drivers. Eventually, someone may even show you some compassion and allow you to merge into heavy traffic. If you are an aggressive driver with a “me first” attitude, that also perpetuates. You will aggravate a lot of people and lead them to adopt their own self-important attitudes. I can almost guarantee your karma will catch up to you and someone will aggravate you (beginning the cycle all over again). Drive safely and courteously out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment