Raging on the road

Raging on the road

What causes seemingly sane drivers to sometimes lose it and go ballistic on the roads? Terence Pillay investigates.

road rage
Road rage is hardly ever logical./Pixabay/Lucky 2013

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We hear about it almost on a daily basis – road rage is real and is occurring far too often in this country. We also hear of violent outbursts on the road from drivers who feel other cars are moving too slowly and they should be ahead of them, or fume when they’re in a hurry and get stuck behind someone they believe is not a good driver, or the most probable of all is that they are simply just bullies. 

The South African, an online publication, reported on an incident in Bryanston, Johannesburg recently where the driver of a Mercedes SUV was so enraged with another Mercedes driver on the road that he first shot at him with a firearm and then kidnapped him by shoving the victim into the boot of his SUV before driving off. The article reports that the thug then dropped the victim off at the Sandton Medical Clinic before handing himself over to police.

Usually road rage is triggered by a specific event. These events will often involve the actions of another driver, such as a slow driver, a driver changing lanes without indicating, or other behaviours that we interpret as a threat or an obstacle.

Recently, deaf South African swimmer and Olympic medalist Terence Parkin was a victim of road rage when a driver behind him tried to push his car into oncoming traffic. Parkin, apparently, drove into a petrol station where he tried to indicate through sign language that he was deaf and didn’t understand why this incident was taking place. The driver then punched Parkin in the face and drove off. A picture of Parkin’s bloodied face made the rounds on social media, as did a video, which has since been taken down.

Parkin, a Durban man who now lives in Johannesburg, hasn’t really opened up about the incident to the media, until now, and because of his disability, a recorded on-air interview was not possible. So we chatted via WhatsApp and this is what he had to say.

What happened on the day of your road rage incident?

It’s a long story but in a nutshell, it was an incident that took place over the space of 40 minutes. Before arriving at the garage where the punch took place, there had been some disagreement on the road. There were lots of road works taking place which required people to drive slower than normal. But obviously this was not suitable for some!

When did it happen, where and at what time?

4th November at the Engen 1 stop (Vaal) at around 2pm in the afternoon. I was driving back home from Durban. I had taken part in the Ultra Tritanium sports event in Durban over 4 days.

What was going through your mind the whole time?

It's difficult to recall but after the episode before the actual stop at the garage, I was calm as I thought it was over. The driver had sped off and I thought I wouldn’t see him again.

Did you worry for your safety and life?

During the disagreement earlier, there was some dangerous driving and I was pushed into oncoming traffic. Luckily there were no oncoming cars. That was scary. At the garage, I feel that the use of my phone protected me somewhat.

What happened at the garage?

I tried to communicate with him unsuccessfully then decided to use text on my phone to communicate with him and he punched me through my car window.

Did you press charges?


Where does the matter stand at the moment?

According to the police, it is still under investigation. Right after the incident, I went to the police at the toll gate close to the garage and showed them the videos but they did not want to assist me – communication issue – so I had to drive home and report it at the police near my home that evening. So, it was reported in JHB but the incident took place in Mpumalanga (where the garage is situated). So JHB police have handed it to Mpumalanga police.

How are you feeling now about getting behind the wheel of your car?

I would rather just avoid aggressive drivers and give them way.

According to the South African Road Federation (sarf.org.za), road rage is something that affects all drivers. At best, an incident can cast a black cloud on your day and negatively alter your mood; at worst, it can result in a verbal or physical confrontation, injury or something even more serious.

We may hear reports of the most serious cases in the news and see videos of them online, but there are disagreements between frustrated, angry, and impatient motorists on a daily basis – making gestures, shouting, and sounding horns. And according to the Federation, in a recent survey conducted by black box insurer Ingenie, 70 per cent of respondents said they’d been a victim of road rage in the past 12 months. And although 65 per cent of those surveyed didn’t consider themselves to be a ‘road rager’, 85 per cent admitted to showing signs of road rage on occasion.

Steve Albrecht, an American author on high risk human resources and security issues, in an article in Psychology Today, puts the cause of road rage into perspective with the observation: “You see it every day on our roads: people speeding past, changing lanes with no signal, weaving dangerously across three and four lanes, passing too closely on either side of your car, speeding up to block you out, not allowing you to change lanes or merge on or off the highway, other drivers racing (i.e., two maniacs who think their car-handling skills are better than they actually are) and roaring up behind you as if they might intentionally rear-end you, constant tailgating, horn honking, flashing high beams at your mirror when you are in “their” fast lane, finger flipping, screaming out the window, causing or creating accidents, pulling over to fight or, worse, kill the other driver.”

Albrecht also says: “What used to be a largely male problem has crossed gender lines. Women may not get into roadside fistfights or point guns at each other like men, but they can drive just as aggressively, rudely, and even dangerously. It’s the rare time when male and female aggression is on display in near-equal amounts. For many men, aggression is supposed to be overt; for women, it is more covert. But put them both behind the wheel, late for something, angry about something else, and in no mood for courtesy, and their behaviours will compare.”

What do you believe should be the punishment for road ragers? You can email Terence Pillay at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @terencepillay1 and tweet him your thoughts. 

Also read: Comprehensive Sexuality Education: What’s all the fuss about?

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