January 4, 1999
Road Rage: advice for victims and perpetators
Last week, this paper reported the high incidence of road rage in Washington state. This week, we offer specific information that will help protect you.
The Washington State Patrol recommends that if you are a victim or see something that could cause a problem for another driver and have a cell phone, call 911. Otherwise, drive to the nearest police station or well-lit public area where there is a telephone and report the incident.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety advises motorists to be alert for potentially dangerous or competitive situations and to avoid them:
Never underestimate the other driver's capacity for mayhem. Be patient and keep your cool in traffic. The best way to avoid being the target of an aggressive driver is to practice basic traffic courtesy:
- Don't take your eyes off the road.
- Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver
- Stay cool--don't react to provocation.
- Keep away from drivers behaving erratically.
Other useful attitudes:
- Do not make obscene gestures.
- Use your horn sparingly.
- Don't block a passing lane.
- Don't switch lanes without signaling.
- Avoid blocking the right-hand turn lane.
- Do not take more than one parking space.
- If you are not disabled, don't park in a disabled space.
- Do not allow your door to hit the car parked next to you.
- Do not tailgate.
- If you travel slowly, pull over and allow traffic to pass.
- Avoid unnecessary use of high beam headlights.
- Don't let the car phone distract you.
- Don't stop in the road to talk with a pedestrian or other driver.
- Don't inflict loud music on neighboring cars.
Reduce your stress:
- Assume other drivers' mistakes are not personal.
- Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn't.
- Avoid all conflict, if possible. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and get out of the way.
Many otherwise peaceful motorists become enraged road warriors when they get behind the wheel. If you're one of them, be advised that:
- Allow plenty of time for the trip.
- Listen to soothing music.
- Improve the comfort in your vehicle.
- Understand that you can't control the traffic, only your reaction to it.
According to the AAA, the precipitating incidents are often remarkably trivial. Stated reasons for violent traffic disputes include arguments over parking spaces, cutting another motorist off or refusing to allow passing, minor traffic crashes, obscene gestures, loud music, overuse of the horn, slow driving, tailgating, failure to use a turn signal, and similar behaviors.
- Cars are not bulletproof.
- A truly aggressive driver will follow you home.
- You've got to get out of the car eventually.
However, violent traffic disputes are rarely the cause. Most situations are not the result of a single incident, but rather are the cumulative result of a series of stressors in the motorist's life. The traffic incident that turns violent is often "the last straw." Persons who exhibit agressive behaviors cross all age, race, socioeconomic, and gender lines. Even persons who are usually "mild-mannered" can blow their top behind the wheel. These persons may only become mad when they're on the road. However, persons who are characteristically cynics, rude, angry, or aggressive are prone to get angry more often. Those persons are "raging" at home, at work, and on the road.
Finally, if you are tempted to participate in a driving duel, ask yourself: "Is it worth being paralyzed or killed? Is it worth a jail sentence?" An impulsive action could ruin the rest of your life.