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Drivesmart column: What is road rage?

These behaviors include rude and verbal insults, yelling, physical threats or dangerous driving
Drive Smart columnist Tim Schewe.

By Tim Schewe

Wikipedia defines road rage as “aggressive or angry behavior exhibited by motorists.” Robert asked me to write about it after reading last week’s article on aggressive driving. He attributes most road rage incidents to slow drivers, especially those who block the left lane. People dislike having their driving controlled by someone else, he said.

Returning to the Wikipedia article again, it expands on what might be considered road rage and is different from commonly encountered aggressive driving.

These behaviors include rude and verbal insults, yelling, physical threats or dangerous driving methods targeted at other drivers, pedestrians or cyclists in an effort to intimidate or release frustration. Road rage can lead to altercations, damage to property, assaults, and collisions that result in serious physical injuries or even death. Strategies include long horn honks, swerving, tailgating, brake checking and attempting to fight.

Incidents like those described are not rare on B.C. highways today.

An article in Psychology Today examines the causes of road rage:

• Road rage can be caused by environmental factors and psychological factors.

• Self-identified high-anger drivers engage in hostile, aggressive thinking, express disbelief about how others drive, and consider revenge.

• Impatience may lead to erratic driving, as vehicle operators prioritize speed over safety.

• Anonymity may fuel bad behavior behind the wheel, because drivers who interact don’t expect to see each other again.

My first reaction when someone involves me in a dangerous situation when driving is to avoid trouble. Sure, I might mutter a few choice words about their mental ability and ancestry, but that doesn’t contribute to solving the problem and could tempt me to continue in that line of thought and make it worse.

Here are a few thoughts on what to do in making the best of what could become a bad situation:

• Don’t make eye contact with the other driver.

• If you are being tailgated, get out of the way.

• Don’t engage with the other driver, even if you think you are correct.

• Only use your horn to warn of danger, not to express your feelings.

• Wave to other drivers with all five fingers.

• Don’t be in a hurry to get where you are going.

• Drive properly yourself.

If you are a victim in a road rage incident, FIDO might be your best friend: Forget It, Drive On!

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit