Road Rage!

Oh, that moment your adorable toddler is sitting on the staircase, Frisbee in hand pretending to drive.  Soon his/her right foot jaunts out towards an imaginary brake followed by a few choice words... yes, that came straight from you.

It’s a crazy world we live in and almost everything we do involves taking to the concrete wilds otherwise known as the highway system. Here we join hundreds, maybe thousands of other humans in giant machines made of steel, plastic, and aluminum with nothing between us but the hopeful sensibility of each person in the driver’s seat.  When it all goes wrong and we react hitting the brake or swerving or speeding up to avoid a crash we are at that point experiencing subconscious behavior.  This goes back to our more instinctual days of human existence. Our lovely brains come fully equipped with a survival section and when the body decides it is needed, it takes over. Our steering wheel gripping, hand throwing, horn-beating is the same fight or flight stress reaction as when one of our ancestors realized he/she was being chased by a hungry saber-tooth tiger. 

For most of us, this split second experience ends at this point leaving us with a dizzying head and maybe a fast heart rate or shaking that we know is going to quite possibly still be with us when we reach our destination. It’s when it doesn’t end like this that we get road rage.

According to the NHTSA 2000 report on road rage; two main contributing factors to aggressive driving are running late and traffic delays. Safe Motorist reports the following statistics:

  • 218 road rage murders in seven years
  • 66% auto related deaths result from aggressive driving
  • A gun is present in 37% of these altercations

Sadly, a sense of being disconnected from one's community is considered the catalyst in many of these situations. We sometimes forget that those drivers are real people. People that we pass at the grocery store, sit near at a restaurant or visit with in line at the DMV.  When we get behind the wheel we are not suddenly in a movie or a video game. It’s real life all the time.

So what can we do when confronted with an aggressive driver? The same thing we do when we don’t like the weather, understand we have no control. The kindergarten lesson, two wrongs don’t make a right couldn’t be more appropriate. Know we can’t control the other driver, take a deep breath, don’t make eye contact and don’t respond.

Being a stickler for the speed limit and living out in the country, it is a common occurrence for some vehicle to seemingly appear out of thin air only to attach itself to my rear bumper.  It’s okay to pull over to a safe spot on the road and wave them past. Don’t let someone else’s decision to miss out on living each beautiful moment take away yours.

As for the toddler on the staircase, I remind myself that someday I’ll be old. Someday it will likely take me longer to turn into a parking lot or even make it to the minimum speed limit. In that someday the toddler might be behind me. Setting a better example for the next generation is a pretty good investment in a future of safer roads.

By Guest Blogger: Audrey Emrick Elder