It starts with just a moment of tailgating, or maybe the guy in front of you cut you off or wouldn’t let you into the fast lane. In some cases it appears that incidents of road rage are caused by simple misunderstandings between drivers. A driver may make a momentary error of judgment but the perception of another driver is that he or she is driving aggressively. Then suddenly it turns into World War III on the highway. It matters little what causes it; a bad day at the office, a love affair going bad, credit cards maxed to the credit limit.
All it takes is a sudden movement of someone else’s wheels, and within seconds a normally mild mannered motorist is consumed with a red-eyed, mouth-foaming surge of anger that grabs more of us every day. Road Rage, something that has always simmered on the back burner of motoring America, is now going off like fireworks. Motorists who have snapped and committed incredible violence are mostly men and women with no known histories of crime, violence, or alcohol and drug abuse. They are the people typically described by neighbors “the nicest woman or man” or “a wonderful mother or father.
Father, mother, son, daughter, they all have their own ways of getting mad. Some slam on the brakes, jump out of their cars, open the trunks and grab anything that they get their hands on. Others use baseball bats, knives, mace, pepper spray, fists, or some simply pull out a pistol and start firing away. Why are these drivers turning their anger and frustrations into road rage and what solutions can we propose to stop this road rage? Some say that one of the main causes of aggressive driving which usually leads to road rage is highway congestion.
The road construction on the major interstates adds to lane closures and distractions to motorists. A motorist is driving the speed limit and then immediately has to slam on their brakes because another motorist sees the lane closures and decides to cut in front of them. This type of driving makes motorists mad because they know that the driver that has just cut in front of them has seen the construction signs and were well aware of the lane closures but still decided to wait to the last minute to get over.
Impatient drivers can also be an instigator of road rage. A road-raging madman pulled up behind Gary Mckay’s truck in the passing lane on Interstate 55 several years ago. Mckay was passing a slow moving tractor-trailer at the time and said that he saw, “nothing but the truck grille in his mirror. I could see his fist and he was cussing and obviously mouthing off. ” Mckay also recalled, “I probably should have sped up a little faster to get out of his way but instead I kept on easing around the truck and then signaled to get over. ” After passing Mckay, the madman made an obscene gesture, pulled in front of Mckay’s truck and slammed on the brakes, three times.
Finally the guy sped off,” (Leiser, Post-Dispatch). It’s this type of behavior that makes road rage a life or death situation. If Mckay wouldn’t have been paying close attention when the madman pulled around him and slammed on his brakes this situation could have turned fatal. It’s not only men who are contributing to the road rage statistics; it’s women too. Back when road rage was first brought to America’s attention, “the drivers who would rip and snort their way through traffic, without regard for turn signals or leaving more than a few inches between cars, were mostly men, but the times have changed.
More and more women are becoming dangerously aggressive drivers, and it is no longer unusual for women to take the next step from aggressive driving to road rage, actually committing acts of violence from behind the wheel,” (Ledford, New York Times). “You feel a whole lot safer yelling at someone when you are surrounded by 2,000 pounds of metal, says Athelia Gunderson of Tacoma, Washington, who admits to an occasional outburst during her daily 30-minute commute to her job at a roofing supply company,” (Bowles and Overberg, USA TODAY).
All of the above factors may be compounded by the frustration many Americans feel as a result of longer commutes and busier schedules. Local law enforcement officials have started programs in their areas to improve the enforcement of laws against aggressive driving which usually turns into road rage. Judges are issuing stiffer punishments to motorists who are convicted of offenses related to aggressive driving. “Battles on Capitol Hill and crackdowns on the nation’s highways will continue as officials target aggressive driving.
Arizona became the first state to make aggressive driving a crime. Nineteen others are considering similar laws,” (Bowles and Overberg, USA TODAY). “The federal government also has responded. The Department of Transportation is giving more than $10 million to a dozen communities in a test to battle aggressive driving. Campaigns include more police patrols, television monitors mounted on freeway overpasses and even dummy cameras at intersections to make drivers think they are being videotaped for running red lights,” (Bowles and Overberg, USA TODAY).
Another possible solution to help relieve road rage is decreasing congestion through the construction of more lanes, widening roads and decreasing the number of curves on roads and highways. We can attack and reduce the dangers of aggressive driving. Each of us should take a look at our own driving habits and those of our friends and loved ones. The government can help with road improvements and law enforcement, but solving this problem will require people to change their behavior. Working together, we can make our roads safer and prevent deaths and injuries.