Sunday, November 11, 2012

On Road Rage

( Photo: )

        I have been very lucky.  Living out in the middle of true forested nowhere, I drive a great deal. I even drive a diesel car so that the range and the fuel mileage is excellent so that I don't have to fill up very often.  I have been aware that in other towns and cities road rage incidents have resulted in the deaths of individuals, either when people used cars to attack one another, or when they pulled firearms. In Virginia in the past year, a man drove his car into another driver's car deliberately knocking him off a concrete bridge and onto the road below.  I never drive anywhere without carrying a weapon, but a weapon is not the appropriate tool when dealing with a nut in a vehicle.
                What I knew about road rage was pretty much confined to what I taught my kids when I taught them to drive, which is:    

    1. Avoid eye contact with those who wish to fight or are bizarre or erratic drivers.

    2. Do not engage those who try to get a reaction from you while driving.

    3. Hang back from bizarre or erratic drivers whenever you can.

    4. Notify police of erratic drivers using cellphone as soon as you safely can.

    5. If someone follows you in your car for an extended period, drive to your nearest police station, and know where all the police stations are.

    6. Drive with your car locked, and call police if someone hit your car "deliberately", because this does happen.

          Up to this week, I have honestly never personally encountered a case of road rage.

  This week I was driving down a four lane highway just under the posted limit.   There was a fair amount of traffic ahead of me. A car driving quickly appeared behind me, and began to honk as if he wanted me to move. This was impossible as there were cars on wither side of me and many in front stopped at a light. The man was in a new car with a dew rag on his head.  He irrationally tried to pull to one side of me and then the other, in an attempt to force others to stop and let him get around them. Meanwhile, I could see in the rear view mirror lots of yelling and arm waving.  Finally, he forced someone next to me into the ditch, and he sped ahead of me.  Three times he sped up and three times he hit the brakes hard, as if he were trying to get me to hit him in the rear.  By that time, my eldest son, who is also armed, took down the plate number, the description of the car, and the description of this man.  We phoned police as soon as we could and indicated where the driver of this car went.  The man was clearly trying to get into an accident with someone in order to generate some kind of a fight.  As a muscular large black man in his twenties, he would likely have won any physical altercation, with just about anyone.

            There are a few take-away points from this.

1. As the economy continues to deteriorate, we are likely to see more and more people crushing under the pressure of their lives and responsibilities, and some of them will descend into road rage.  Driving, especially in urban or congested areas is likely to become more dangerous.

2. Police used not to take "road rage" incidents too seriously.  Now with deaths up from these behaviors, many of them see this as a genuine hazard.  They may well ask you to prosecute this person.

3. Hang back and don't interact with the motor manic.  Let them move along whenever you can.

4. Although I was thinking that if this man exited his car and walked toward us, I would feel threatened enough to draw my weapon, most states do not allow us to fire a firearm from a vehicle.  There is a special charge in our state for those who fire from the inside of cars. The law was designed to make drive by shooters think again, but it does extend to other situations.  So, getting away from dangerous individuals and situations is by far the better plan, whenever you can.

5. Always stay calm yourself in such situations.  Two people losing their minds isn't going to make the situation any better.

6. Consider driving with good sunglasses.  You can be watching someone or taking down a license plate without anyone realizing what you are looking at.

7. Keep post it notes and a pen handy in your car.  I memorized this man's plate, but in a stressful situation, I might not have.  Cellphone pics might not show enough detail to get license plate information.

        In all, I was surprised at how well my son and I did.  We actually knew when this man was behind us that he was a road rage problem.  When he tried to get into an accident with us from the front, we weren't surprised and therefore I just was careful, even in bumper to bumper traffic not to follow him very closely.
I don't know what happened afterward, although I know the police are very anxious to speak with him.

        There is not much else we could have done.  I already avoid driving in most cities during rush hour.  I already buy a lot of things over the internet.  Sometimes, we just need to be on the road, and we want to be practiced in urban driving.  Give some thought as to how you would handle this, when it happens to you.
According to AAA, there are 1200 deaths in the US annually from road rage.   Therapists are working on creating a psychiatric classification for this disorder.   I also read that there are people serving consecutive life sentences for murders which are the result of road rage.     



Gorges Smythe said...

You did well. That "disorder" is known as "sin," though the law won't recognize the term.

JaneofVirginia said...

It really was scary. I thought he would eventually hit our car, and I could envision it descending into his attacking us.

Sandy said...

I'm happy to hear you and your son are okay. Road rage is a terrible offense that needs to be addressed, and drivers need to be held totally accountable for their actions.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks Sandy. It was scary. We did well while it was happening, but honestly I don't want to drive in that area again for awhile.

kymber said...

oh Jane...i am so sorry to be getting here late! i am so glad that you and your son stayed calm and did everything that you possibly could to avoid any interaction with that maniac. you are so right about the possibility that road rage incidents will increase due to the various issues affecting people in your country these days. i know that you were scared and shooken up by the incident, but i am very glad for the way you and your son handled it.

your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

Thanks, Kymber. We have been very lucky in this regard. As much as we all drive, this is the first time something like this has ever happened to us. We will be on the lookout for anything else !

Matt said...

Jane, I grew around the Memphis area and even lived in it for several years. Upon two occasions, I've had weapons pointed at me from these individuals. Most of the time there isn't much you could have done to have avoided something like this.... sometimes trouble just finds you.

But your advice is sound here. I just generally try to get out of people's way and not be involved.... if possible. Traveling armed as people like you and I do, we must keep our noses clean to the up most extent possible.

JaneofVirginia said...

Life is changing. When my kids were small, my biggest concern when going out, was whether the heels I wore with my dress would be suitable for all the walking I would be doing while shopping with them that day. Now, I think a bit more as if it's a mission into hostile territory. I dress down, but not too down. I leave a plan at home or with someone as to where I have gone. I go in the morning because fewer robberies and issues arise then. I bring a weapon, and it's usually a 40 s&w. If I need to go somewhere where I can't carry a weapon, then I have them mail whatever it is to me. I am of the philosophy that anywhere that doesn't allow me to carry a firearm, is somewhere I don't need to go. I have a smaller car, without a personalized plate and without any bumper stickers or identifying information. Still, you're quite right. Trouble can find you.