Don’t maintain the (road) rage

It all started with a foolhardy blast of a horn.  What happened next left an indelible mark on the young driver and changed her driving behaviour forever.  

The road between Kilcoy and Esk was very quiet that Saturday afternoon in December 1974.  The young woman behind the wheel and her mother in the passenger seat were in good spirits.  

They had been to Ipswich to visit family and were chatting away happily as they headed home to the Sunshine Coast.  The young woman had been driving for six months.  Her parents had bought her a car for her 17th birthday and she felt like the queen of the road.  

It was late afternoon when they first encountered the truck.  It was parked awkwardly on the verge with the rear driver’s side encroaching on the carriageway.  

The young woman slowed down on approach, drove around the truck and without thinking, twice honked the horn to express her displeasure at this mighty inconvenience.  

She accelerated down the road, feeling a little smug and a tiny bit clever, but soon forgot the truck and resumed conversation with her mother.

Ten minutes later, she noticed a vehicle in the rear vision mirror.  As it drew closer, she realised it was the truck she had passed not long before on the side of the road.  

For the next 30 kilometres she was an unwilling participant in a dangerous and terrifying game of her own making.  Clearly outraged by the horn’s raucous reprimand, the truck driver sped up behind her, tailgated for a kilometre or so and then eased back, only to repeat the sequence over and over again.  Random blasts from the truck horn left no doubt that the truck driver was intent upon retaliation.  

She had unwittingly and stupidly sparked a road rage incident that he was going to make her pay for.  

There are no prizes for guessing that the foolish young woman was yours truly.  Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the truck driver taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of emotional control behind the wheel.  
Road rage incidents are a daily occurrence.  Most of us have witnessed crude gestures and swearing, one car cutting another one off, constant tailgating and honking, not allowing another vehicle to merge or change lanes, speeding up to prevent overtaking, and various unsafe driving manoeuvres performed deliberately and with complete disregard for safety.  

Historically, angry young men initiated most road rage incidents, road rage of the hormone-based, primeval, chest-beating, ego-driven type.  

Prompted by a need for superiority, domination, and risk-taking, classic road rage helps explain why young men are more likely to die on the roads than any other population group.  

More recently, however, road rage seems to have crossed the gender divide.  Women – and dare I say young women in particular – can be just as aggressive and unpredictable behind the wheel as men.  So watch out.  
The presence of lipstick is no guarantee of good road manners.  

Since we have no control over the behaviour of others, the best defence against road rage lies within ourselves.
The cardinal rule is to avoid irritating other drivers.  Keep to the speed limit, use indicators, travel in the fast lane only when overtaking, give way when appropriate and above all, be courteous.  

When confronted by aggressive behaviour, your response can turn a minor irritation into a major incident.  
Remember the old adage “discretion is the better part of valour”.  It is immeasurably better to avoid a road rage situation than to confront it, so maintain your composure and refuse to participate.

If possible, put some distance between yourself and the hostile driver.  You never know the state of mind of another driver, what kind of day he or she has had, or whether drugs and alcohol are ingredients in this potentially dangerous situation.  

Avoid eye contact, stay calm, be dignified, which means definitely no finger wagging, head shaking, muttering or frowning.  That only fuels the fire.  

Displaying a finger or two may be immensely satisfying in the heat of the moment, but it has never been known to improve driver behaviour.  

As for horn blowing, I have grown wiser in the 41 years since I honked the truck driver on the Esk to Kilcoy road.  These days I adhere to the social conventions that govern responsible usage of the horn.    

Never BARP when a merry little “beep” will do, such as when the person in front is unaware that the red light turned green five seconds ago.  

Never honk “hello” to your friends as this could alarm and irritate other drivers.  

Never honk because you can’t be bothered getting out of the car and ringing the doorbell.  This will definitely irritate the neighbours.  

And never use your horn to vent frustration with another road user.

Just breathe slowly – out with the anger, in with the love.  

REPORT it when you see it

If circumstances allow, take note of the make, model and colour of the vehicle and jot down the registration number.  The police will also want a description of the traffic behaviour and the date, time and place of the incident.  

 If you have a mobile phone handy and you’re not behind the wheel, take a photo or video of the car.

 If you are in immediate danger, phone triple 0.

 If you are feeling unsafe, drive to a populated area or the closest police station.

To report an incident, call Police Link on 131 444.  You will get to talk to a real person, who will take the details and help facilitate the gathering of additional evidence, such as photos, if available.

 There is also the dedicated Hoon Hotline, which is not just for reporting illegal street racing.  Any traffic related incident, including road rage incidents, can be reported to Hoon Hotline 13HOON (134666)