Racing on the road

Raging on the road

The number of incidents of rage on our South African roads is climbing at an alarming rate. Terence Pillay takes a look at some of the factors that cause road rage.  

Road safety
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We all watched the dash cam footage earlier this year, of the BMW driver that got his come-uppance when he tried to ram into another car for not getting out of his way in time, and instead ended up in a ditch. It’s probably a fate we’ve all wished on aggressive road users at some time or the other. 


I have often come up against belligerent, hostile drivers who want to hog the fast lane, even though they’re about to veer left to an off ramp, drivers who tailgate you because they want to get one car ahead and drivers who are so rude and violent that they often don’t just stop at giving you the middle finger, but will try to push you off the road. 


So who are these creatures causing havoc?


Psychologists say road ragers are selfish, power hungry, angry, and vindictive. And Ava Cadell, a US psychologist says, “The heavy metal of a car is a safe haven. Road ragers don't think about the consequences or even about other people on the road as real people with real families."


According to Arrive Alive, the number of reported incidents of road rage has increased in the past few years. Road rage occurs when people who are already vulnerable to aggressive outbursts are led to express their rage and - more critically - direct it towards total strangers.


Arrive Alive quotes psychologist Sally Davies who says that from behind the wheel, it is so easy to personalise relationships on the road. “We find ourselves in a position of power and safety, free to insult other drivers verbally, make moves that restrict or obstruct them, make aggressive gestures with hands, flash our lights, sound our horns, or otherwise act out fantasies of being "in charge" - as if we had been appointed Road Monitor!” Davies says. 


Congested roads, busy schedules, and idiots on the road are a fact of life, says American researcher and reporter Lauren Kirchner. “But road rage can escalate, to fatal extremes, very quickly. Urban planners and neuroscientists alike have studied the external and internal factors that contribute to aggressive, reckless, and vengeful driving. They’ve shown just how complicated and contagious it is, and how there’s no easy answer to such a persistent problem.”


Angry or aggressive driving can range from mild displays of anger, such as not maintaining a safe following distance to the vehicle ahead, to more serious forms of violence, such as physical assault and vehicular homicide.


In 2015 a News24 poll garnered more than 10 000 votes. And the result was quite worrying. 


•       Yes, I have a problem - 1391 votes

•       No, I exercise self-control - 3103 votes

•       Sometimes it gets the better of me - 6485 votes


Of the more than 10 000 respondents, 13% (1391) admitted to having a problem dealing with their rage on the road. The majority (59% or 6485) said that sometimes they lose control while only 28% (3103) said they exercise self-control behind the wheel.


The numbers of people who lose control on the roads are alarming. But there are a few checks that you can do to make sure you are not in this 59% of uncontrollable drivers on the roads. I read an interesting article in The South Coast Herald on the subject and they had some checks and balances that a motorist should use before getting into a car. 


1.     Get enough sleep.

2.    Plan properly: If you are the type of person who allows just enough time to drive to an appointment, you might be more prone to temper and speeding.

3.    Change the radio channel: Listen to music that relaxes you, rather than hypes you up.

4.    Do relaxation exercises when driving: Flex your fingers and loosen your hold on the steering wheel.

5.    Do not take bad behaviour personally: When encountering another motorist’s undesirable driving behaviour, remember that it has nothing to do with you.

6.    Finally, ask yourself the following questions:

7.    Do I regularly exceed the speed limit to get to work on time?

8.    Do I drive too close to other drivers?

9.    Do I flash my lights and hoot to let drivers know when they annoy me?

10.Do I verbally abuse other drivers whether they can hear me or not?

11.  Do I frequently weave in and out of traffic to get ahead?

12. Do I feel the need to set bad drivers straight?


According to the Herald, a ‘yes’ answer to any of these six questions means your driving may be considered to be aggressive. We are all likely to lose our tempers at some point. By planning ahead and keeping things in perspective, we can prevent our emotions from getting the better of us.


Have you ever lost your rag on the road? Or, how do you react when an incident of road rage occurs? 


You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts. 


Sources: Arrive Alive,,,, South Coast Herald

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