April 26, 2010

Road Rage

car-crash.jpg image by chicogarcia_bucket
I've been thinking about the cause of road rage recently. Everyone knows that it happens, but why? Why do we get more upset on the road than we do other places? I think I know the answer: poor communication.

When I was a child, I had a severe stutter, as well as some other speech problems. You wouldn't notice them now unless I pointed them out to you, but back then I had difficulty even getting a sentence out. On top of that, I was an extrovert with a lot to say. However, I was constantly ignored or talked over. According to my mother (since this was before I could remember) the level of frustration from not being able to communicate caused me to get violent.

I think the same thing is happening in cars. Think about our tools of communication: a horn, turning signals, hazard lights, high-beams, and reckless driving. That's really it. Turning signals are overly specific to be useful and horns are too ambiguous to really communicate anything other than frustration.

Here's an example from my life. There is a road here that is 40 mph until a certain point, and then it increases to 55 mph for a significant distance, and has one lane. I would say about 1 out of 10 cars fail to notice that the speed changes, and there is only one marker, so if they miss it, they never correct it. Now I could flash my lights but that tells them really nothing. I can beep my horn or tailgate, but that only says that I want to go faster. That doesn't tell them that they are going 15 mph under the speed limit. I'm at a loss for communication. What do I do? What can I do?

Nothing, and that's angering.

One thing that really used to frustrate me was tail-gaters, because there was nothing I could do about it. What I started to do was simply slow down until they passed me (not the most Christian thing to do). One time I did this, and the person ended up being a cop in a civilian car (oops). He came over and asked me why I slowed down. I told him the truth. He claimed he wasn't (oook) and suggested that next time I put my four-ways on. I've been doing that ever since and interestingly it works. Most people seem to figure out pretty quickly that my issue is that they are tail-gating. And guess what, it doesn't bug me anymore.

There is something frustrating about be trapped in a box moving at dangerous speeds surrounded by people who you cannot communicate with, especially if they do something dangerous which threatens your life. Go figure. And the more often you are unable to communicate, the more it builds up to the point where it begins to carry over to the next day, and the next, and the next.

I wonder if there was something more we could do to communicate on the road. Something more dynamic. I'm positive that it would decrease road rage. It may also decrease cell phone drivers, though I doubt by much. Anyway, just some thoughts.

1 comment:

SLW said...

How about a voice activated digital banner across the top of the front and rear windshield. Then when we talk at the other cars, it would instantly go flashing across the ticker. Of course to keep it clean, maybe it would have to be limited to only a few phrases...
"It's an accelerator pedal, you have to push it to make it work!"
"Don't you pull out in front of me!"
"If you follow me that close, I'll have to go slower for my safety and yours."
"That's a yield sign, not a stop sign!"

On second thought, maybe this isn't such a great idea after all. ;-)