We are kind of funny people here in Great Britain. We are strangely polite compared to many other countries in the world and are happy to dutifully stand and queue even when spending our own money when frankly, we shouldn’t be queuing. We are kind to animals and happy to give up our seats on the bus or on the train for an older or more needy person and we are often prone to chatting with total strangers like we’ve know them all of our lives. However, mess with us on the road, or dare to put a foot wrong in traffic and it’s like you’ve not warmed the pot before making a brew!
The UK has been called the road rage capital of the world, but is that justified? Well AXA Insurance says that £35 of every premium we pay goes towards paying for accidents caused by road-rage incidents. Its claimed that 25% of us have been victims of road-rage and AXA say that some 800 lives are lost each year as a result of what they refer to as ‘red-misted driving’ so this is a major issue if that’s true.
The shame is, it can easily be avoided by taking a little bit of care, consideration and politeness with us when we get in our cars but survey figures say that 53% of us have admitted that we have shown aggressive behaviour when we are behind the wheel but frankly, I am surprised its only 53%.
The myth that authorities like to perpetuate is that road-rage is caused by aggressive driving, but if that’s the case at all, its just one small part of what causes road-rage and that’s because road-rage comes about because one driver has done something the other driver disapproves of and do you know what, on many occasions, they do so absolutely on purpose simply to give them power and the ability to annoy and effectively, be rude to the other driver. On other occasions it happens because the driver that is the catalyst for the road-rage is careless, sloppy, and inconsiderate or just down right incompetent. So the situations that mostly cause road-rage aren’t aggressive driving, but fact is, aggressive driving is so often the retaliatory response.
Fact is, the result of what we perceive to be either be unreasonable behavior or extreme rudeness and even turn an otherwise nice person into a dangerous, raging individual and the red mist can and will descend. But that truly can be prevented. This isn’t something that needs to exist.
How many of you have sat at a roundabout waiting for the guy approaching from your right to pass in front of you, only to find the idiot turns left at the roundabout and simply hadn’t bothered to indicate? How many times have you simply been wanting to do 70mph on a dual carriageway, only to find some jobs-worth idiot sitting in the outside lane at 60mph and whilst its obvious they know you are there, they are “provocatively” going to sit there because they know its illegal for you to overtake them on the inside, and they are going to make you sit there until such time as they are going to let you past. It’s deliberate.
How many times have you come up quickly behind a driver in the outside lane when the inside lane is completely empty and had to wait until they spot you, when they pull over to the nearside lane to let you past, then pull straight back into the offside lane to await another victim to annoy?
Still in the outside lane, how often have you come up behind someone who’s decided to become a resident in the offside lane, because they are turning right at the roundabout 3 miles ahead?
Not reacting quickly when a red light turns green, meaning fewer cars can get through the change of lights is inconsiderate. Changing lanes without signalling is inconsiderate. Failing to observe the lane structure at roundabouts, and cutting off the inside lane is inconsiderate. Failing to indicate correctly at roundabouts is inconsiderate. Even travelling at say 20mph in a 30mph limit can be enough to upset the driver behind you, who whilst he does not want to break the speed limit, would at least like to do the speed limit!
Another favourite is that you are patiently sitting in a queue of traffic, when somebody decides to start using the pavement or even the hard shoulder to get past you and being the honourable law abiding citizen you are, that’s simply something that your moral code won’t normally let you do, so you get annoyed
All of these things upset other drivers and whilst some simply think what a useless driver the person causing the situation is, others really feel that the behaviour of the other driver was simply unnecessary and inconsiderate and that angers them and sometimes that anger spills over into road-rage.
Why is it that seemingly rational people change in nature and want to create some hassle that they wouldn’t do in other areas of their lives? Well I think it’s because as drivers we are detached and anonymous when we are cocooned in our cars and frankly, they probably see the situation more as my car against your car and this allows a normally ‘meek’ person to indulge in what’s effectively antisocial behaviour and do so in the knowledge that you are never likely to meet, or ever see again the person that you are offending, being rude to or are deliberately upsetting.
Why do so many drivers see using the road as a competition, whereby you’ve got to either be in front of the other driver “so you are in control” or behind them, pushing to get past? Can’t we live and let live?
So for me, its not the big issues that cause road-rage, it’s the petty minded people who want to exert some power over another motorist, either by holding them up or getting in their way, or simply by being neglectful with things like road positioning and indicating. The really strange and upsetting part is that in many cases, they know they are doing it and sometimes do it deliberately (you can see they do, by the cars body language), but they are the first to complain and cry innocence when the other driver simply has had enough and sees red and has a go at them.
Fact is road-rage isn’t necessary and would disappear overnight if people made driving their cars into an art-form. It just needs drivers not to want to play games with each other and not to feel they are in some kind of competitive situation, but instead, be thoughtful of each other, by indicating, by keeping in the correct lanes and by not deliberately holding other people up. OK, you might be doing 70mph in the outside lane and yes, that’s the national speed limit, but if you decide to stay out there as judge and jury to slow the guy behind you down, well you are going to annoy him and he’s either going to dangerously tailgate you or get you back in some other way, so let him go, he’s out of your life then!
So how do you avoid road-rage? Well first thing is to drive your car as well as you can. Think ahead and indicate in good time if you are going to make a manoeuvre. If you are or want to go slower than other traffic around you, keep to the left hand side, don’t hog the outside lane. Be polite to other motorists, don’t fight over the one space in front, after all, you will only be 15 feet further back! Let the odd car out of a junction, it will make you feel good and will do the same for the other driver. Above all, don’t deliberately seek confrontation by making eye contact with the other driver or making hand gestures, because in doing that, you are laying down a challenge and you will become involved in an incident.
One other thing that’s worth pointing out is that there is a difference between the road-rage we’ve spoken about so far and just being impatient, when for example you are stuck in a queue of traffic, because that’s normal and for what its worth, you will be sharing that feeling with every other driver around you (almost a shared experience?).
There has without doubt been a breakdown in our sense of community and perhaps a disintegration of our shared values leading to a lack of empathy for other people’s position and that manifests itself in us not caring too much about other people, unless we know them personally. So guys don’t be afraid to say sorry to the other driver when you’ve messed up and you will be amazed how liberating that feels and how strangely, it puts you back in control, but I guess the main thing for you to do is to “cool your head and warm your heart” and simply let it go.