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Anger management: dealing with road rage in SA

2016-06-28 12:15

Top Car - Duane Dell'Oca

ANGER GETS YOU NOWHERE: Most drivers make themselves guilty of exhibiting road rage, but in the end it's all for nothing, or could lead to dire consequences. Image: iStock


Road safety and common sense takes a backseat in this road-rage brawl. Watch as dodgy traffic behaviour escalates into an all-out street fight!

Cape Town - There are very few people I despise. On the list of persons I would most like to feed legs-first to crocodiles, child molesters come in at number one. Poachers are right up there. And dentists!

But despising a concept is far less infuriating than individuals who affect me directly. Cut me off in traffic and I want to spray-paint insults on your car. Drive slowly only to accelerate when I try to overtake and I want to do unspeakable things.

'Humans are territorial'

Flash your lights when I have a file of slower-moving cars on my inside lane and I want to lock you in a room playing Sex and the City episodes... on repeat... indefinitely!

All that changed in February when the extremely likeable quick-for-a-joke biker, Douglas Pearce, was shot and killed in an apparent road rage incident. Knowing Doug made this personal, but it was as if his tragic death brought my fading light bulb flickering back to life.

READ: Road rage in SA: Readers share their stories

I realised as a 19-year-old that for an otherwise restrained character, I succumbed to road rage. I consciously made efforts to avoid confrontation.

Among the stress-less tactics I first tried was the ‘Woosah’ technique used by Martin Lawrence's character, Marcus, in the movie Bad Boys II. I also became deliberately courteous, almost ridiculously so, until I realised I was on occasion letting in so many cars I was inadvertently upsetting a host of drivers behind me.

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So, why did I initially struggle to control myself? When I am wronged, I want justice. More specifically, a psychological study I happened to come across upon ages ago proposed road rage exists because humans are territorial and as such, view our cars as extensions of our empires.

I was at a toll gate on the N1 some years back when a car joined a queue of others and the driver stepped out. This man strode to the vehicle in front of his and through the open window, punched the driver of that car in the mouth. Then spun round and emotionlessly walked back to his car.

It was one of life’s great slow-motion moments.

I saw the funny side as my overactive imagination kept fabricating circumstances that may have led to that.

Double team: There is probably no logic in arguing with a road raging couple. Image: iStock

'Road rage solves nothing'

Ultimately, road rage solves nothing. Releasing my fury at a driver who upsets me could cause other motorists to react similarly, or worse, potentially lead to an unintended collision. I won’t remember the person in the morning and I am hardly likely to even think of the incident again. It is the motoring equivalent of a bad one night stand.

Today, I have refined certain preventative and inhibiting techniques that work for me. I generally leave several minutes earlier than my expected travel time to avoid the possibility of having to make up time on the road. I listen to soothing music. Rammstein at home, Owl City on the road. When I make a motoring faux pas, I wave a sincerely apologetic hand. And, because I get an accepting response, I do the same when conscience-stricken drivers agitate me.

READ: 11 tips to help you survive road rage

My premier grievance outlet is reserved for more serious scenes. Earlier in May I was forced to leave the road to avoid being side-swiped. I stopped my car, composed myself and then drove home with the smug satisfaction of someone who shames road hogs. Having seen it, I recited the car’s number plate along the way. 

That night, I took to Twitter, detailing the incident, listing the registration and wishing the maniacal motorist incurable warts in areas where the sun doesn't shine.

How to deal sensibly

There are several websites and social media platforms dedicated to reporting reckless or aggressive drivers. I am hardly advocating taking the law into your own hands. I am suggesting you discover your solution to give yourself a sense of justice without transgressing the law yourself after any given motoring moment. And there are many other outlets for frustration. I’m always keen to learn and try more.

I would argue (I mean, suggest) that the majority of South African road users are at least sensible, if not always courteous. I can live with that. I am simply appealing for more responsible driving. But while I try to be a good boy, the next time you think about tailgating me, be warned... I still drive with an unopened Sex and the City box set in my boot.

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