Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Road Rage - Alive and Well in the Maritimes

A few days ago there was a road rage incident in Dartmouth that shocked me. A man was waving his arms and shouting like a lunatic at a man in another car. As they got to the red light, the lunatic got out of his car and walked towards the other guy. He then pulled out a knife, and smashed the guy's driver side window. Now this is where it gets epic. The driver gets out of his car (no doubt covered in glass) and knocks the other guy out with a punch! While the guy who got out of his car seemed like a hero, he should have really just driven away when the guy was coming at him. Even if he had a reason to beat him up, you never know how the court system will roll in the other persons favor.

Road Rage Around the Nation

Road rage is ubiquitous in America today. Evidently the average commute in our cities, towns villages and on our highways across the country is filled with anxiety, stress, antagonism, discontent, and fear that encourages such incidents. Most of the victims recognize a dramatic increase in road rage. They have different solutions:

A New York City driver complains:
I live in NYC, a town with a seemingly complete lack of driver courtesy (ever drive the Westside Highway or the FDR Drive?). This is definitely an extreme example. But how many times, on any highway, is someone passing on the right, or conversely sitting in a left lane forcing people to go around them? I wonder how many traffic jams could be eased or eliminated simply by observing protocol on the road. Not to mention accidents and their attendant costs. All this is especially underscored after having been in Germany recently, and seeing how things could be.
A Washington, DC, driver appeals to Christian charity
I want to talk about neighborhood driving. It is getting out of hand here in DC. I try to drive within 5 mph of the limit on side streets and have gotten so many dirty looks and gestures while doing so. The bad part is *everyone* seems to be doing it, even rather nice looking women. Children live in these neighborhoods. So do mothers and fathers. What is the rush? You might save a few minutes but is that worth hurting someone? If you are Christian you cannot drive this way (Give unto Caesar and all that). You must consider those around you. Based on the driving habits of the people in the DC suburbs, most cannot be considered Christian at all. Most are willing to risk the safety of others to promote their selfish desires. This is not meant to be a liberal/conservative argument, just a call for common sense. Please think of your faith before you get behind the wheel.
A Hoboken driver wrote to the New York Times editor asking for stronger law enforcement:
My neighbors constantly complain about high auto insurance rates, yet the same individuals get into their high-velocity cars and run stop signs and red lights, tailgate, weave and speed, and cut others off in order to be "first." Considering the number of pedestrians and automobile drivers and passengers maimed and killed every year on New Jersey's roads and highways, "gun control" should be put on the back burner and "auto control" on the front, so that not only the news media would get after these reckless drivers but also the New Jersey police departments would get needed public back-up in their effort to make our highways safer.
Illinois drivers have a reputation for outrageous driving:
Passing on the right, passing on the left, passing on the shoulder, passing on the sidewalk, making U-turns on the sidewalk, parking on the sidewalk, driving in reverse the length of a city block, sometimes two, to grab a parking spot...any others I missed? Illinois drivers are highly creative, that much I must say.
Drivers often focus their fury on presumed "outsiders":
Here in the Northwest the stupidity of the typical driver is beyond description. I'm sure you can relate. But at the same time, most of these poor excuses for drivers have moved here from elsewhere and brought their skills (or lack of) with them. I've driven coast to coast in roughly half the states and one thing is certain, all larger metropolitan areas have the same problems. People who commute around here are constantly complaining that there is far too much traffic for the existing roads to handle. A true statement but one which applies to most cities. It is a condition which I'm sure you've heard of: Road Rage.
Or like California drivers in the rain:
When I went to Montana and Wyoming this winter, most of the accidents (mostly cars on the side of the road) were Californians. A little rain and everyone forgets how to drive. A reporter on KFI in LA even stated "Californians can't drive in the rain." When I was in LA, I avoided the freeways during rush hour in any rainstorm; there would be a huge number of accidents, and this was especially true during the first big rainstorm of any rainy season.
Drivers see the rise of road rage take different manifestations. Here's an example of passive aggression:
Probably the most disturbing *trend* I notice (I work near a hospital) is that it seems like no one will respect an ambulance any more. I've seen ambulances held up at an intersection for half a minute, maybe a full minute, flashing their lights and creeping forward a foot at a time, while people continue to try to make it across, turn, whatever, right in front of them.
For San Diego drivers aggressive driving is a game:
I live in San Diego too, but I see it a little different. Yes, it's more tense, the "one car length per 10 mph" is a joke, but I find drivers up there "more" competent. They know where they are going and they know where the turnoffs are. Sure, everyone flies in real tight formation with very, very little margin for error. When someone changes lanes right in front of someone, the guy behind does not slam on his brakes, as might happen elsewhere. I think it's because they spend so much time on the freeway --that helps them keep in practice.
One driver gave a cogent analysis of why his style of driving should be considered "assertive" rather than "aggressive":
The competitive aspect manifests itself not in speed, but in position. There are clumps of cars traveling slower than the prevailing traffic flow, necessitating lane changes. Gaps in traffic come and go quickly, making such lane changes challenging at times. Standing waves aren't uncommon, and everyone will sometimes slam on their brakes without warning and for no apparent reason. Slowdowns appear out of nowhere: "Can I get to that upcoming exit in time to escape, or will I be stuck in this mess for a while?" The competition is in being able to deal with all this stuff effectively by maintaining a higher degree of situational awareness than the other guy. Does that mean driving like a maniac? I certainly can't see that it does, necessarily. If you find the sort of mindset that acknowledges this reality and seeks to thrive in such a milieu dangerous and aggressive, then so be it.
The difference between being assertive vs. aggressive was given further support by this driver, whose views are shared by many:
The other thing I do is constantly test my driving habits by thinking, If I were that guy that I just flashed my lights at, passed on the right, cut close in front of to get through a tiny "hole," slipped by on a shoulder on a secondary road because a turning lane was ahead 70 ft or so--how would I feel? Am I truly being inconsiderate (impeding them or endangering them beyond what is inevitable) or is someone pissed just because I am doing something that they don't think is right. Yes, I drive by what some people call "aggressive." I call it "Driving for Progress." But I am constantly aware of how my driving is affecting others. And no, I am not perfect, I do make mistakes and occasionally make inconsiderate maneuvers.
Sometimes the anger is generational:
I hate the 17-year-old guy in the "hot rodded" Civic or Eclipse that believes he can safely navigate Southern California roads at 95, or that his 800 lb. car will withstand a collision with a dual-trailer big rig at that speed. I mean, I'm currently forced to putt around in a Geo Metro, and I move along at about 75 (a little fast, but that's what traffic in general does), but I also realize that if I get hit, they'll probably never be able to separate me from my car, so I try to keep it a little more reserved. But these kids with their tiny little imports and whopping 6 months (whoa!) of driving experience that believe they could outdrive Mario Andretti with their eyes closed, well, they make me want to savagely and mercilessly inflict permanent and debilitating pain upon their person while their slut girlfriend looks on in abject terror.
I've found that commuters commonly fantasize their special revenge. One driver wrote:
In a perfect world, once a year they would put all the inconsiderate, incompetent and rude drivers in little Subaru Fiori's, and we would get to drive all over them in big HumVees.
And another driver in a similar vein:
All motor vehicles should come with rockets and heavy weapons installed, so all drivers could express themselves to other drivers in a more creative fashion.
Which led to this cynical echo:
I'd thought that putting steel I-beams along the sides, front and rear with Boadicea type spikes out of the wheels would be enough but it messes up the resale value.

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