But what is it?
Simply put, it’s getting ticked off at other drivers. When was the last time you blurted out the phrase; “Hey, you $#!@!. Why don’t you watch where you’re going, you dumb $@#!”
Powder Keg On Board
If you’re like me, it was probably the last time you drove your car. I suffer from road-rage. Driving brings out the worst in me. Whether I’m cruising a highway, looking for a parking spot, or driving the local streets, I’m bound to encounter a person who annoys me. I will mentally curse this other driver. If provoked, I will spew profanities. WHY ARE THESE HORRIBLE DRIVERS CLOGGING UP MY ROADWAYS!
Admittedly, this is a terrible personality trait, and one I’m working hard to correct. Road-rage leads to big trouble. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that two-thirds of the 41,000 annual road fatalities are linked to road-rage. (That’s 27,333 Angry Motorists Found Dead for you non-mathematicians). Here in North Jersey, where there are more cars than anywhere else in the country, the roadways are a powder-keg of road-rage.
True Road Rage Confessions
I experienced the wickedness of road-rage first-hand.
In 1993, I was driving along Route 23 when a guy driving an “evil lumber truck” accused me of cutting him off. He announced his accusations through obnoxious honking and obscene hand gestures, including use of the Magic Finger.
I returned his gestures, and added a few clever variations of my own. After cutting me off, the Evil Lumber Truck sped off down the highway.
I proceeded to the drive-in window of my bank, not noticing the Evil Lumber Truck had pulled into the lot behind me.
As I stuffed my paycheck into a plastic tube, the Evil Lumberjack crept up beside my car, reached in the driver’s side window, and punched me twice in the head. Meanwhile, an Evil Passenger appeared, and smeared an egg sandwich on my windshield.
I wanted to be big and brave. Replaying the event, I wish I had grabbed the Evil Lumberjack’s arm and floored the accelerator, dragging his carcass through the parking lot before fishtailing around to catch the Evil Passenger beneath the grill of my mighty Geo Prism. Crunch!
But at the time of the attack I merely fumbled for my glasses on the bucket-seat next to me, and shouted something tough and witty, like, “Hey, okay!”
The smack in the head was a wake-up call. As a longtime road-rager, I got a taste of my own medicine. The Magic Finger used to play a major role in my driving routine. Now, I rarely employ it. Sure, all other drivers are inferior to me, but I try not to let it get under my skin.
I follow and endorse these three simple steps to curb road rage:
- Mellow Out. If another driver cuts you off, or otherwise annoys you, remain calm. When in traffic, have some of your favorite music handy. Do deep breathing exercises.
- Keep Your Eyes On The Road, Your Hands Upon The Wheel. Besides being a cool Doors’ lyric, this old adage is a basic tenet of safe driving. Eyes on the road will prevent making eye contact, and hence conflict, with the subhumans driving next to you. Hands on the wheel will prevent you from delivering vulgar gestures.
- Stay Home.
Originally published in Wayne TODAY, July 1997