Get Your Motor Running - Road Rage

Get Your Motor Running. Head out on the highway. Anyone that knows me will tell you I am pretty easy going. I admit to a temper and I do get angry. But I don’t lose my temper. Well, rarely. My point is that I fit within those parameters to be considered just a normal guy. I am usually reserved, occasionally emotional. No extreme behaviours.

What I want to know is what turns us into complete asses when we get behind the wheel of a car?
I am not necessarily talking of extreme road rage where someone gets out the car and attacks other people or throws things. I am speaking of that point before it escalates. What makes us so irate? How do otherwise calm and normal people suddenly become angry?

What specifically sets us off?

Last week my elderly neighbour and I pulled out of the garage seconds apart from each other. He was ahead of me by a couple car lengths.
He turned right. I turned right.
He turned left. I turned left.
He took the merge onto the highway, I followed right after.
He swerved over three lanes to the left. I slowed down.
He swerved over three lanes to the right. I assumed he dropped his 8-Track tape so I slowed down to keep some safe distance.
A warning tap on the horn seemed to wake him up and he found his bearing and drove off – in a straight line.

I kept my cool. This time.

I heard one radio psychologist offer an explanation. She indicated that emotional immaturity would be the most likely cause of road rage. The individual is not capable of considering the other person’s perspective or emotions.

This week I was driving on a busy part of the highway. For the Montreal readers – the raised Met, just east of St. Laurent.
One of those box trucks – probably a 24-footer - cut me off.
I had to hit the breaks, there was absolutely no where for me to go, or swerve. Out of necessity I honked my horn to warn him off.
Despite this, the driver continued forward and sent some hand gestures my way. He stopped his sign language when he seemed to notice the police car to my left. Now, I do not know if either the police officer or truck driver saw me give the finger. But I reacted. I am a much calmer driver than I used to be. This was the first time in years I gave someone the finger while driving. 

I did get out of my car a couple years back after a cab driver cut me off three times. The first time was by accident. He did not like the fact that I honked the horn, so he swerved to block me and attempted to drive me off the road. That one ended peacefully after a brief verbal exchange. I remained calm, but common sense says that I should not have stepped out of the car.

From everything I have read, road rage can include aggressive speeding, cutting people off, weaving in and out of traffic, flashing your lights, rude gestures, yelling abuse, honking the horn, and of course hitting someone or throwing objects.

Rather then lump all driving behaviours together, I would prefer to separate the behaviours into three categories. Road Rage, Aggressive Behaviour and Aggressive Driving
Although, there is some overlap, at the extreme end, Road Rage would include physical violence, threats, attempts to injure. 
Aggressive behaviour could also cover abusive language, honking the horn, intentionally cutting people off, rude gestures.
Aggressive Driving would probably cover, peeling tires, excessive speeding and cutting people off but not with the intent of injury towards another person. This category could be interchangeable with unsafe or reckless driving.

What makes us do these things?

Even calm and otherwise well behaved people fall into this trap. We can control ourselves in the supermarket and at work. What happens in the car?

I indicated earlier that I am a calmer driver than I was years ago. The first event that gave me perspective was a 36 hour road trip with friends some years ago. You spend 36 hours in a car with three other smelly loud immature obnoxious 20-something year olds and tell me it doesn’t change you. 
After that, sitting in traffic for 45 minutes does not seem nearly as bad.

The other thing that altered my perspective was the realization that I have unintentionally cut people off. Why should I get angry at someone who cut in front of me in error? I wave an apology and I immediately see the changed look on the other persons face. Anger turns to forgiveness with that typical wave and nod of the head.
I did not intend for this to be a lesson. I suppose I am still looking for answers. But if you do not mind the suggestion, be a courteous driver, always signal, do not tailgate, don’t cut through parking lots at odd angles, and do not flash your high beams. And when you wave, wave with all five fingers.

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