There are millions of cars and drivers, and we can’t know the state of mind or situation of those with us on the road. Be prepared if you become the target of road rage.
I was driving home with my daughter after Cheer practice on a hot summer evening. We were chatting and having fun and I proceeded through a major intersection where the road narrowed by one lane.
I admit I’m never going to win an award for skilled driving, but I’m certainly not the worst. The road narrowed, and my lane shifted to the left on the other side of the intersection, so on a straight course I landed in the right lane. A blaring horn behind me locked up my joints. I glanced in my mirror and saw I had cut somebody off. The road narrowed again into a single lane and I vowed to pay closer attention.
The other driver proceeded to follow me. Close. That beat-up green truck ran two red lights to stay with me. A red light at the third intersection trapped me, and in my side mirror I watched a man jump out and march toward my van.
I mentally ran through my options. Turn right on the red light and leave him standing in the road? Get out my phone and snap his photo when he got to the window? I could maybe threaten him with that?
He rattled the glass next to my head with his fist. Dare I open the window? His stiff frame and clenched hands, head and shoulders leaned in, intimidated me. I couldn’t see his other hand, was he hiding a bat, a crowbar? The door locks clicked and I realized my daughter had thought to double-check that he couldn’t get in.
I lowered the window an inch. His teeth were yellowed, crooked and some were missing. He was a tall, nearly bald, older man. The kind who’d worked in construction all his life.
Did I not know I had cut him off? The rant spewed from his lips and onto my window. I sank into my seat, glancing between him and the stop light wishing it would turn green so I could flee. Profuse apologies spilled out of me. My heart did its best to leap out of my chest. I didn’t know what other penance he expected from me, but I was not getting out of my
shark-proof cage van.
My hands shook and I held on to the steering wheel like a drowning man to a life preserver. And he stopped yelling.
He stared at me for another moment. I can’t be sure, but the look on his face said he’d realized what he was doing. He took half a step back. “Don’t worry about it.” And jogged back to his truck.
The light turned green. I continued on straight through the intersection and he turned right. Never saw him or that horrid green truck again.
I’m not sure what he expected would happen, what he thought that tirade would accomplish. Maybe my terror was as visible as my daughter’s? Perhaps my inability to hide how I feel finally came in handy?
Ladies, if you find yourself in a similar situation, here are a few tips on how to protect yourself. (All of these will work for men too.)
- Don’t escalate the problem. Don’t gesture or volley insults back. When both tempers flare disaster follows.
- Don’t speed up or try to flee. High speed chases lead to high speed collisions. Slow down and make a safe exit or let them go by.
- Remember there’s safety in numbers. If other cars on the road witness the road rage they are likely to assist by calling authorities.
- Don’t get out of your vehicle. The doors, glass, metal and bumpers are your best protection – especially if the road rage involves a two-tonne battering ram (the Rager’s car). Trying to run them over, or retaliate in kind isn’t worth it. Let insurance and the police work out the property damage – it’s not worth anyone’s life.
- Make a big show of getting out your phone and calling 911. Having police show up will be a deterrent. Try and get their license plate. The majority of road rage incidents are never reported.
I didn’t do everything right, but I did enough right to stay safe. I was definitely at fault for cutting him off, but this incident has taught me to give the other driver the benefit of the doubt when I’m slighted on the road. I try to pay more attention when I’m driving, and if there’s a next time I’ll listen to that small voice telling me to whip out my phone. Stay safe.
Have you been a target of road rage? What would you have done in that situation?
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