|( Photo: stellarcafe.blogspot.com )|
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.