In Defense of Road Rage

Contrary to popular psycho-babble, drivers who experience road rage generally are NOT unstable, volatile, controlling or psychotic. It’s true, we’re angry. We have a right to be. Otherwise good drivers experience road rage for one simple reason—bad drivers.

Some classic triggers of road rage:

• Drivers who get in the fast lane and go exactly the speed limit, ignoring the build up of cars behind them, blissfully unaware that traffic is coming to a standstill a mile and a half back.

• Drivers who speed up when you try and pass, or pace you [consciously or unconsciously] so you can’t get ahead of them.

• Drivers who run the red or jump the green light at an intersection—simply the primary cause of most traffic related deaths on suburban streets.

• The "baby on board" mothers who feel if you’re driving too close they have the right to slam on their brakes to ‘show you.’

• Drivers who ignore yield signs when entering a highway or rotary.

• Highway workers sitting around, or not present at all after closing three out of four lanes of the freeway at rush hour.

• Drivers who continually brake for no reason.

• Slow campers and other vehicles that don't use turnouts.

• The guy on his cell phone, writing notes onto the small pad attached to his dashboard, so busy taking over the world he thinks he deserves all lanes of the highway.
These are just a microscopic sample of the myriad of drivers who cause road rage. Add your bad driver pet peeves to the list. I’m sure we can all come up with hundreds, possibly thousands of slights about our fellow drivers.

There was a big push over the summer for cops to go after people who are displaying signs of road rage, but really they should be going after the drivers who cause it. Personally, I wouldn't be getting mad behind the wheel all the time if it wasn't for all the inconsiderate and incompetent drivers out there.


So, below are five simple rules of the road (that probably weren't on your state driving test), guaranteed, if followed, to help us all get along a lot better:

1. THE FAST LANE (the far left lane) is for FAST TRAFFIC ONLY.
If you don't want to go fast move to the right. If you’re going 110 mph in the left lane and someone wants to pass you, move over and let them pass. It's their ticket, not yours. Don't force the car behind you cross into the right lanes to move around you. It creates a dangerous situation while they weave in and out of traffic just to pass you and it slows down all other lanes of traffic.

2. Keep clear of other vehicles.
Speed up, or slow down, but don't pace the cars next to you. Allow enough room for drivers in other lanes to move into your lane if they need to. Keep clear of cars entering a freeway. Do not pace vehicles to prevent them from passing or getting ahead of you. DRIVING IS A COOPERATION, NOT A COMPETITION. Deal with your self-esteem problems in therapy, not playing road warrior.

3. NEVER slam on your brakes if someone is following too closely.
They are trying to tell you something: Get out of my way. You're not their mother, their teacher or a cop enforcing traffic laws. Move to the right, use a turn out or side street. Just get out of their way. The point is to keep traffic flowing as quickly and smoothly as possible, not to become the next accident stat while you try to teach someone a lesson.

4. Travel with the speed of traffic.
If traffic is moving fast, keep up or move to the slow lane (the far right lane). If you are driving on a single lane road, use turnouts or side streets if five cars stack up behind you. Technically, this is the law. Morally, it will keep the peace. More rage is conjured sitting behind a slow driver than any other inconsiderate driving behavior. Risky passing maneuvers create dangerous situations when annoyed drivers try to get around slow vehicles.

5. Keep your eyes on the road. Pay attention to driving.
Don't look at your passenger when speaking. Don't program your GPS display, put on make-up, play with your dog, your kids, or yourself. Get off your cell phone. You simply don't have sufficient time to react to a hazard when traffic is moving at 70 mph if you are not paying attention to driving. Get off the road to deal with your personal issues. How can you possibly see that yield sign if you're looking at your wife? Will you notice you're pacing someone, preventing them from changing lanes or entering the freeway when you are engaged in the deal of your career on your cell phone? Not likely.

Never forget that you are driving a bullet. And so is everyone else on the road. In the U.S., car accidents account for more deaths and permanent injury annually than all the murders, natural disasters and random street violence combined. Cell phones now surpass drunk driving as a primary cause of accidents. Road rage accounts for another large percentage of collisions. Don't exacerbate this problem. Learn to give a damn about the other people on the road with you. When you ignore the five simple rules above, it just may be you that suffers from the anger and subsequent poor judgment of the driver you enrage.


Creative Chronicler said...

Great post. While I agree with most of what you have to say, one of my biggest pet peeves is tailgaters. I agree you should never slam on brakes to "teach them" however I don't agree that the person they are tailgating is in the wrong and should have to move over for them. (Unless they are the idots who slam on brakes and turn without using a signal...which apparently in NC is an option package sold with cars and most don't choose to opt for turn signals) It has been my experience with in front of tailgaters, riding with tailgaters, and shaking my head when three idiotic tailgaters rear-ended my 4000 lbs of steel blazer in heavy traffic due to not paying proper attention or just plain bad driving (BTW, two of the vehicles were totaled- the blazer perfectly fine. Hello it's not like I was driving a tiny vehicle that was hard to see!) I digress. My point is, if you are a tailgater then you are a bad driver, period. I general follow the law but do go over the posted speed limit however even when aggravated by a driver in front of me I keep a safe distance behind them (my blazer could flatten a house, it's only responsible.) I don't care if the car in front of you is going too slow. Yes it's annoying however the tailgater does not own the highway and does not have the right to put others in danger because he/she can not follow the legally safe driving distance.

J. Cafesin said...

Creative Chronicler:
It's not a matter of if you 'should' move over. Simply do. What's the point of hanging in a lane with someone hanging on top of you? Simply move when it's safe to do so. It's certainly safer for you to move, than the tailgater to weave through lanes of traffic to get around you. Just cuz they're being jerks doesn't mean you should. Always remember the Prime Directive of Driving:

Creative Chronicler said...

Very true. Point taken.

WritersSecret said...

This one really grabbed my attention...a perfect additions would include: the care who's too nervous to cross traffic during rush hour...I say, turn right and then cross the medium if you don't know how to navigate across four lanes of traffic...and the other one...if you're coming down a main street and someone is waiting on a side street to cross...use your damn turn signal! Thanks for the opportunity to share!

Kathryn said...

I disagree. If someone is a bad enough driver that they're tailgating, then they're bad enough to want to race around you, cutting corners, as fast as possible at their first opportunity. The opportunity that you could be using to politely move over for the tailgater. I always slow (I don't step on my brakes but I allow my car to decelerate) when someone is on my ass.If someone is going to cause an accident, it's best not to do it at top speed. If I feel it is safe to move over, I will, but most tailgaters will have already raced around and cut you off because of their Road Power & Control trip. If you really want someone to move aside, you should keep at a polite distance and do a quick flash of your highbeams. That's the signal, I believe, to please move over.

J. Cafesin said...

It's illegal any time to flash your brights or lights at someone. Trust me, I've gotten a ticket for it.