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Road Rage

Surf the Internet, and you will find many articles about "Road Rage", the present label for extremely aggressive and dangerous driving behavior. It is the both the aggressive driving habits of some and the extreme reaction exhibited by others. At the very least it involves a driver's release of pent-up anger and hostility. At its worst "Road Rage" may cause someone's injury or death. It's not just tailgating, speeding, or neglecting to use signals. No, it is much more. Incidents of "Road Rage" have resulted in deaths, and not all caused by an accident!

People have been shot because they have played the radio too loud or they drove too slowly. A few years ago, my cousin's daughter, after giving an obscene sign to another annoying driver was assaulted at the next stoplight. She was punched in her face hard enough to require extensive dental work. Her attacker remarked to the judge that he thought she was a guy, because she was wearing a baseball cap. She was in a great deal of pain for quite some time. Since, she could not have known the other driver's reaction to her gesture, she should not have given it. It was apparent that this guy thought if he had actually punched a guy there should have been no consequence. The judge, however, believed either way this man deserved to given a serious consequence for his aggressive behavior. [Go Judge!]

No one - for any reason - other than their own personal protection or the protection of another should ever harm another human being. Obscenities are a show of immaturity, but other than hurting our feelings or offending us they do not cause us bodily harm. And forget this garbage about someone "dissing" you. We have to thicken our skins. Not everything is meant to be taken personally. Most immature people will grow up someday [and even if they never do], your aggressive behavior isn't going to make a difference!

Alan, a friend of my son's, while driving in Rockford, noticed in the car next to him, the passenger aiming a gun at his head. There wasn't any confrontation and I believe that this jesture was just gang members showing off. But, if somehow he had angered or upset them - only God knows what would have happened. ...Where does this senseless behavior come from?

Those who have been driving for many years have noticed a significant change in driving behaviors and while we may be tempted to say it is just the younger drivers, statistics show it is not. The statistics do indicate a greater percentage is young men age 18-24, but older men and even women now also behave aggressively.

Unintentionally, I probably anger many of them myself, since driving the speed limit [or no more than a few miles over] and keeping a decent distance behind the cars in front, is enough to set some of them off. [Whatever happened to the "3 second rule" we learned in school? Don't they teach that anymore?] I get some drivers behind me who think that if they ride my bumper I will speed up. Sorry guys, I don't need a ticket. Learn to obey the law or go around me. And don't bother with the hand gestures, the words or ugly faces. It doesn't impress me nor does it even anger me, and it only slightly annoys me. I figure you are ill-mannered and immature. By the way, if there isn't room to pass - wait until there is. I do get irritated when I see someone risk their life and mine needlessly.

Besides what's the hurry? Tailgating and speeding is only going to shave a few minutes off the driver's traveling time. And quite possibly not even that. He could be late [or possible never make it at all], considering the increased chance of receiving a ticket or causing an accident.

There is an interesting site [listed below] where people can post their opinions on road rage. Many of the guys who commented thought that women were the primary problem. Some actually thought that anyone in the left lane going the speed limit should be ticketed! A few believe that if we all carried guns we could allieviate the problem. [Probably by killing off what they consider incompetent drivers, which in their definition were those who followed the speed limits.] A few comments actually were intelligent.

The problem is not just with driving but with the intense stress that most of us are under, i.e.; jobs or lack of, families, money, time, school, ...just everyday living. When we get in our vehicles, we are in our own little world and we think we are finally in control. We turn up our radios, drive as fast as we want, totally disregarding the law and others. We think that we are invincible and all-powerful. If someone interferes with "our world" we get mad. As mad as we were with the boss, our spouse, or our kids but couldn't show it. Now, here's a stranger who is annoying us and we don't even think about it. The aggressive monster takes over and we let him have it. And we know it is wrong ... but we don't care. They broke the last straw.

What if it is also the other driver's last straw? What if his life is also giving him grief? What if that other driver is on drugs, drunk or carrying a weapon? You don't know. Persons exhibiting "Road Rage" have been known to even use their cars as a weapon. They aimed their vehicle at another person or object and hit the gas. In many other incidents, guns were used.

Is "Road Rage" really that serious? President of AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, David K. Willis, said, "For every aggressive driving incident serious enough to result in a police report or newspaper article, there are hundreds or thousands more which never got reported to the authorities." And "the number of reported incidents has increased every year since 1990, at an average of nearly 7 percent." (link below)

The problem is not unique to America. Reports are also coming in from England, Austrailia, Korea and Canada. This is scarey! Driving was once a relaxing way to spend a free evening or weekend. But life sure does change. Most of us no longer have a free weekend or evening and if there are "nuts" on the road, even driving is no longer relaxing.

Our increased stress is only part of the problem. People have become callous and uncaring in their attitudes towards others. Our nation appears to be in dire need of relearning the basic values. Like the original Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." We all make mistakes. There are times when everyone has been a little slow on the take-off or didn't see a car or committed a mistake. What happened to apologies? What happened to smiles and nods? Why must ragers resort to violence? Road Rage is serious - research proves it.

The police need to give more tickets for tailgating and speeding. And judges need to put heavy penalties on the offenders. This means no pleading guilty to a lessor charge. Many cases of paying a heavy fine and getting the tickets are reduced to non-moving violations. This is not going to teach the offender anything - except - if you have enough money you can get out of anything. Not a very responsible teaching technique- it produces disrespect for the law and puts reckless drivers back on the roads! In the meantime and as always ...

Drive safely and watch out for the other guy. It's the only way to watch out for yourself.

Connie Eccles

Interested in more? Check out the following.
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Monsters Behind the Wheel - interesting article.
Road Rage Runs Rampant in the U.S
Ignorance Contributes to Road Rage