Road Rage: When Anger Leads To Danger Behind The Wheel
In recent weeks, far fewer cars traveled Alabama roads and highways. With the coronavirus, many people temporarily sheltered at home. Less traffic means less driver frustration and anger on our roads. Yet, we still face road rage incidents. Those events are likely to increase as people resume the hustle and bustle of work and life.
While reading a recent local headline, I decided to write on the topic. The headline read:
Crazy headline! What happened? Apparently a driver and passenger were arguing inside a moving car. The passenger jumped from the car. The driver then ran over him. This kind of crazy anger behind the wheel is not an isolated incident. This is not the only recent road rage headline. Here are just a few 2020 Alabama headlines involving road rage:
I believe “road rage” is part of a larger societal level of anger. Many people seem to have forgotten how to live and work together. Now, I’m not writing to make a political or societal statement. Maybe I should. But, I’ll stick to personal injury issues.
I’m writing to discuss an issue important to our law practice. That is — Highway safety and preventing needless personal injury. Several years ago, our firm represented a young lady traveling to pick her little brother up from soccer practice. She was driving down a Madison County road. She had plenty of time and was not rushed. What happened? She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. A pick-up came speeding up behind her. She was frightened. The pick-up driver sped around her. As he went around her, he made obscene gestures. After passing her, he repeatedly slammed his brakes. He eventually ran her off the road and fled the scene. The young lady’s car flipped and stopped in a field. The pick-up driver was identified ONLY because one of his passengers later called the police. Like so many road rage incidents, the innocent driver on the roadway suffers the injury.
In another prior case, I represented a Limestone County family which tragically lost 3 members in a single road rage incident. The other driver was a young man driving a large pick-up. He was speeding. He became aggressive in traffic. He lost control and went over the top of a small car killing the 3 family members inside. I’ve practiced law for years and have seen many car accident scenes. But, I’ll never get the photograph images of that scene out of my head. It was horrible. In a single instant of rage and aggression, that young man took 3 lives and ruined his own. That young man was criminally prosecuted for the deaths. The young man who caused the crash is deeply remorseful. I believe he is remorseful and lives daily with an almost unbearable pain. But, it is too late to restore the lives lost in that instant.
What Causes Road Rage?
Most of us have busy schedules. Life is hectic! Maybe you are late. Maybe you are frustrated. Maybe you are upset over matters in your personal life. Too often, people allow their frustrations to turn into anger or aggression on our roads.
In the first case I mentioned, the aggressive driver intended to act outrageously. He intended to drive in an angry and dangerous manner. He meant to scare, intimidate or hurt another driver. Afterwards, he left a young lady to suffer and, possibly, die. She lived but suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that forever changed her life. We should NEVER tolerate that type of behavior on our highways.
Most people do not intentionally head down the road planning to hurt or scare someone. Instead, these drivers may be stressed, upset and frustrated. Maybe some act caused their distress before they ever started driving. Maybe some act on the roadway caused them to become aggressive or enraged while driving. What simple acts by others cause road rage in already stressed, upset or impatient drivers? You know what they are. They include:
Gridlock, Traffic Jams, Heavy Traffic
Construction Delays (Or Detours)
Erratic / Aggressive Driving
Gestures From Other Drivers
Horns And Lights From Other Drivers
You can probably think of more examples. We all have behaviors that bother us on the roadway. We should never let these behaviors cause us to lose our cool.
What Are The Types Of Road Rage?
What types of road rage drivers do you frequently see? Some drivers are habitually road rage drivers. These drivers act aggressively almost every time they drive. Other drivers are situationally road rage drivers. These drivers are usually calm but some event caused them to lose their cool.
When it comes to road rage, what types of drivers do we frequently see. I’ve listed five of the most common types of road rage drivers. They are:
1. Entitled Drivers
We live in a world where so many people feel entitled. They should not feel this way. They are not entitled to any special treatment but act as if they are. These drivers believe they have special highway privileges. Often, they are too busy to be bothered by the frustrations of everyone else on the highway. And, they show it. Their trip will take precedence over everyone — even an approaching ambulance carrying a patient to the hospital.
2. Passive-Aggressive Drivers
Control. These drivers avoid a direct confrontation but use their control of the road to act negatively toward others. What do I mean? Think of the guy who drives far too slow in the left lane and then slows down more if anyone approaches from behind! Think of the drivers who speed up to keep other vehicles from merging! You know these drivers.
3. Screaming Drivers
Have you ever seen another driver screaming or gesturing from behind the wheel? I’m sure you have. I remember one of the first times I let me daughter drive. We were on Highway 431 near our home. She was driving fine. Suddenly, another driver rapidly approached from behind, going far over the speed limit. That driver started honking his horn even though my daughter had no way to move.
4. Competitive Drivers
Everything is a competition! These drivers want to be first. If you pass them, they will pass you back. They want to be first in line. They are like racers driving to win!
5. Fighting Drivers
I listed this category last. These are drivers that may physically attack or confront you. We see many headlines involving these drivers. They are the ones who punch another driver at an intersection. They are the ones who follow another driver and pull a weapon on them.
When teaching my children to drive, I’ve warned them you may not know who is violent until it is too late. So, it is best to stay calm and avoid aggressive drivers.
How Can Drivers Avoid Road Rage Events?
How can you avoid road rage events? By that, I mean two things. How can you avoid driving in an aggressive or enraged manner? And, how can you avoid others driving in an aggressive or enraged manner? Let’s look at some ways.
Plan Ahead — Allow plenty of time for your trip. If you are not rushed, you will stay calmer yourself and when facing other drivers. By planning, you can also avoid the potential for sudden traffic stops that cause so much frustration.
Be Polite — Do you really need to honk your horn? Many times, drivers honk when not necessary. That honk may be the trigger for another driver.
Calm Yourself — When you are calm, you are less aggressive and angry. And, you are better able to handle other people around you.
Let It Go — This is a big one for many people. So many people are unable to let go of the smallest insult or slight. Yet, they should. People are much better practicing patience and forgiveness. (Maybe I should address this to some current politicians who prefer bickering and name-calling).
Don’t Connect / Engage — When experiencing an angry or aggressive driver, allow them space. Don’t make eye contact if possible. Sometimes, angry people interpret any interaction as an escalation.
Don’t Take It Personally — It’s not you. It’s the other driver.
Don’t Return Home — This applies in those situations where an angry or aggressive driver follows you. Do not lead them back to your house. If followed, stay calm and drive to the nearest police station.
I hope this common sense advice helps. In the frantic pace of life, it’s easy to become irritated. Angry or aggressive driving causes needless tragedy on our roads and highways.
The Blackwell Law Firm focuses exclusively on cases involving serious injury, damage or death. Many of our personal injury cases involve serious Alabama car or commercial truck accidents. If you have questions about a personal injury issue in Alabama, let us know. Consultations are always free and confidential.