Road rage or traffic tantrums?

Photo by Rex Features

Recently the news has been full of tales of road rage. Global News frequently re-runs a video of a man simultaneously driving and hurling a torrent of foul abuse at another motorist. Meanwhile, the victimized motorist is filming the whole event on his cell phone. I hope this event did not take place on one of the so-called bike routes that we cyclists share with thousands of duelling rush hour cars.

Neither of the drivers would have had much attention to spare for those “Share the Road” signs which authorities apparently believe can magically turn a dangerously busy road into a safe bike route.

More recently, we read the appalling story of Gerardo Arguello and Norman Segundo, using their minivan to chase down Ryan McCaffery, another motorist, and beating him savagely with a baseball bat. McCaffery’s “crime?" He pulled in ahead of Arguello and Segundo on an on-ramp near North Vancouver. Arguello and Segundo probably “lost” about 30 metres of road space; for that, they have rendered a father of two unable to earn a living, and nearly made a widow of his wife.


Photo from Newzar

I suggest that these events should not be called road rage. They should be called traffic tantrums. The behaviours are much the same as toddlers having a temper tantrum: they show the same utter selfishness and loss of impulse control. It’s understandable in toddlers; but in grownups, it’s shameful. Which is why I wish Global wouldn’t fuzz out that cursing driver’s face – he deserves to be publicly shamed.

Sadly, traffic tantrums are all too common. In fact, one might say that they are just the extreme version of what happens to all of us when we get behind the wheel of a car. The nicest person in the world can become hostile while driving. As early as 1902, Otto Bierbaum was shocked by the traffic tantrums he encountered during a road trip:

Never in my life have I been cursed at so frequently as on my automobile trip in the year 1902 … not to mention all the wordless curses: shaking fists, stuck-out tongues, bared behinds and others besides.”

And this was when speed limits had just been raised from four miles per hour to 14 miles per hour. And Britain had just abolished a law requiring every car to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag or a lamp to warn more sedate road users on horses, bikes or good old feet.


Photo from Bluenred

Certainly I find myself shamed by my OWN emotions when I am forced to drive a car. In no time at all I am muttering about the stupidity of other drivers.

I fear my children learned to swear
while being taxied around by me.

And other drivers are doing the same to me, sometimes not at all quietly. For example, they honk harshly if I take a second too long to pull off from a light.

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