What is this?! People behind the wheels of two-ton steel contraptions taking out their anxieties and anger issues on total strangers by using said contraption to endanger their lives! Would these same people walk up to you in a grocery store and threaten to punch your lights out if you are pushing your cart too slow? I don’t get it, but unfortunately with the thousand-mile-a-month commute that I have to do I see it all the time and have been the victim on way too many occasions. Who hasn’t read in the news about such things ending with violence and even death?
It’s truly frightening when it happens. Last year on the way to work, I was driving down I-684 in moderate traffic. A little background info: the speed limit is 65 on this highway, but only landscaping trucks and little old ladies actually drive at this speed, and they mostly stick to the “grandma” lane. The speed in the “sandwich” lane tends to be between 65 and 72-ish. In the “hammer” lane, all bets are off. If you are not passing at around 80 or 85, you are a problem. I’m just saying. So I was tooling along in the fast lane, and got behind a man in a small car who was going way too slow, probably the speed limit. I gave him a quick “hey move over and let me by” flash of my brights, and that was a big mistake. He gave me a glance in his rearview mirror and hit the brakes. I was not tailgating, so I had plenty of time to slow down, which I did. Having experienced road rage before, my antennae went up. But I was not ready for this guy. He slowed down to almost a complete stop. In the fast lane. During morning rush hour. My heart pounding, and checking my rearview to make sure I would not get rear-ended, I slowed down and tried to move to the right. He saw me and jumped in front of me, and slammed on the brakes again. Every time I tried to get away, he jumped in front of me and slammed on the brakes. This went on for miles. We got onto the Hutchinson River Parkway, driving in the left lane, and all of a sudden, he veered off to the right, crossing three lanes of heavy traffic and coming to a stop on the shoulder. I breathed a shaky sigh of relief. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw him shoot back across the other lanes and come in behind me. He pulled up so close on my tail, I could count his eyelashes. That was when I reached for my cellphone and called 9-1-1. I reported what was happening and told them I felt truly threatened. They claimed to be on their way, but fortunately this lunatic got to his exit and with a lot of not-nice gestures, he got off. I shook for quite a few minutes after reaching school.
This is not the first time, nor the last time that I have either been a victim of road rage or seen it happen to someone else. Often the aggressive driver is a man, but according to statistics, women are quickly catching up. In fact, to my surprise, I found statistics saying that women with children in the car are among the drivers that respond to an aggressive driver with the strongest response- in other words, if you mess with me when my kids are in the car, you’re playing with fire. Now, I do get the protective instinct thing; my own is very well developed, and to this day if someone upsets my adult children I would come after them. But in the car driving along at high speeds is not the time nor place for this- instead of protecting your children, you are actually the one endangering them. So moms, please, do what AAA says, and ignore the aggressive driver! Statistics also say that although the majority of road-ragers are men between the ages of 24 and 35, there are plenty of middle-aged people out there apparently just looking for trouble.
My mother tells the story of an older woman she works with who admits that she road rages often. This is a person with a sweet, kind, benign character; but once she gets behind the wheel, she becomes a demon! I think people feel anonymous when they are driving among strangers and lose their normal sense of courtesy. I know this is true of all of the anonymous commenters on websites who hide behind some pretty strange monikers and say horrible things they would never dream of saying, or get away with saying, to someone’s face.
Someone I know personally proudly tells the story of coming to a toll booth next to a driver that had been making her nuts on the road. She says she calmly got out of her car, opened the guy’s hood, reached in and ripped out the distributor cap (or some such part) and chucked it across the road before getting back in her car and driving away. I wasn’t there and can’t vouch, but it’s a pretty good roadrage story.
I drive a lot, and I am not shy behind the wheel of my car. I drive far and I drive fast, and if you are in my way, please move over and let me through. My husband does not like to drive with me most of the time because I have no patience for traffic jams or idiots on the road. I’m working on this really hard. But I’m smart enough not to purposely engage with other drivers, except for the reminder flash of brights now and again. Especially in certain nearby states, where I believe you can buy a driver’s license at Target. On sale, cheap. I just wish everyone knew how to drive well and safely- it would make my commute so much better. I’m almost looking forward to those new cars that I’m hearing about that do not allow you to get close enough to another vehicle to cause an accident. It may take away some of my control, but it will probably save a lot of angst and maybe even a life or two.