You people haven't seen road rage until you've gotten out of North America. In reality, people in America have better road ettiquette than most other countries, including Australia. Some of the worst I've seen includes China, India and anywhere in Africa. Trust me, Americans have nice roads, nice cars, and the only reason there is road rage is a slight dose of stupidity. In China, road rage is almost guaranteed. Here are a few general rules on the average drivers in China.

  • Drive like you're walking. If you see space, feel free to drive on it, be it the divider, the curb, or anything.
  • Ignore all mirrors. Drive on impulse. Look forward at all times.
  • Drive as if you were the only one on the road, until you realize that the other car is two inches away from you.
  • Use the horn liberally. It adds to the atmosphere of the road, especially in traffic jams.
  • It is OK to tailgate, cut people off, or otherwise give them a heart attack by driving precariously close to them.
  • Eat while driving. Drink while driving. Read while driving. Do anything while driving. It's all good.
  • Remeber, signals are for wimps. Feel free to swerve across 3 lanes without signalling across heavy traffic.
  • It's the survival of the quickest. Whoever hogs the road space wins.

That's about it. You can see why road rage is so rampant here. Since the cars in China generally suck, and the roads are not in as good condition as American roads, it makes the situation even worse. And yet, this is still better than India. You don't want to see African road rage. It's pretty insane.

What is road rage?

Road rage is an emotional demon that haunts the roads, particularly interstates. A person in a highly emotional state may become aggrivated by the actions of another driver -- resulting in a sick, twisted attempt at revenge which much too often steps outside both laws of reason and laws of legislature. This is road rage.

What are symptoms of road rage?

The first and choiciest weapon in a road rager's arsenal is the act of tailgating -- Our enraged driver will move himself closer to his victim, generally to within a few feet. This has the effect of scaring the bejeezus out of the victim, whom will notice that there is no way he can stop without causing a wreck. This is often employed when the victim is going too slow for the rager, who would as a general rule of thumb prefer a speed more on the order of "too god damn fast" (20-30mph over the speed limit.).

This sort of behavior serves as excellent reminder of what a flaming dumbass a person can become when they lose their temper. As you might imagine, the rager is risking his own life even more than that of the car in front of him. Not only will all his force be directed into a solid object, but he is also going to wind up being sandwiched by any other cars that crash behind him.

This is not to say that the victim will escape scott free. Unfortunately, the people who die in an accident are very often the people who did absolutely nothing wrong. It appears that those who are drunk or otherwise unnaturally relaxed will survive car crashes more often than those who are sober and sane, due to their tendancy to not resist and roll with the shakes and bounces.

Road ragers also tend to swerve a lot, not being terribly concerned with picking a spot in their lane and sticking with it. They also like to yell at you out the window if at all possible, and hit their horns a lot. These last two become extremely popular with them in traffic jams, at which time they believe that the person immediately in front of them is responsible for the entire ordeal.

What if I have a road rager behind me?

What do you do if you're being targetted? Firstly...do not take it as a challenge, or as an affront to your manhood, or anything of the sort. Take a very deep breath, and imagine that your are Spock for a moment. Do what is necessary to make everything safe. Do not concern yourself with whether this will "pay that rat bastard back" or what he will think of you. It's not worth it to pay him back if you wind up flipped over, on fire, with three dead kids or friends in the back.

Firstly, bump up your speed by a couple miles, or until you've reached the upper end of safe speeds, whichever comes first. Is he still tailgating you? Change lanes, preferably into a slower one. If he follows you, he's definitely pissed off about something.

Now, wait for a clearing off to both sides, wide enough for him to make a very, very sudden lane change. Flash your brake lights, taking -extreme- care not to actually apply your brakes. The idea here is to remind him that you may need to slow down for any number of reasons, and that following you so closely is a bad idea. He may panic and swerve off to the side, thinking you are actually slowing. This is why you made sure that you had some clearing on either side.

If his behavior still doesn't change...Take an exit. Only the really, really dangerous psychopaths will actually follow you. If they do...Make sure either you or your passenger checks the mirror and gets the guy's license plate. Then, for god's sake, don't stop unless there are a lot of people around.

Should you get rear-ended by a tailgater, it may be a relief to know that in many places, a rear-ender is -always- considered to be the fault of the person on the rear-end. You could slam on your brakes on the Interstate in these places and get off scott free, I think. The idea behind this is that if you are following a car, it is your duty to make certain you have enough distance to handle any sudden stops they may need to make.

What sort of person can become a road rager?

Anyone.

It's very, very easy to get angry with the faceless villain in the blue car in front of you who just cut you off, then insists on going 40mph in the fast lane, and speeds up just enough anytime anyone tries to pass him. Just play it cool, and wait for it to resolve itself. Forcing these things doesn't work.

“Here we go!” she yelled. “Whoo-oop!”
Their heads snapped back like marionettes on a single wire as the car leaped ahead and curved retchingly about a standing milk-wagon, whose driver stood up on his seat and bellowed after them. In the immemorial tradition of the road Anthony retorted with a few brief epigrams as to the grossness of the milk-delivering profession.
The Beautiful and the Damned
, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922

Road rage is usually perceived as a modern problem, possibly caused by our fast society, the way violence is depicted in entertainment and the media, and an increase of vehicles (and therefore drivers) on the road. But surely tempers were frayed by inconsiderate and untalented drivers long before car stereos were blasting the merits of beating other drivers to death with baseball bats?

Road rage... is that you that gave me the finger?
Road rage... how come you won't you turn off your blinker?
You shouldn't drive like that!
I've got a baseball bat!
Road Rage,
Jimmy Fallon, The Bathroom Wall album

The “tradition of the road”, in which Anthony lets loose and tells the milkman what he really thinks of him, must have started even before cars were invented if it had already been deemed “immemorial” - the novel was published in 1922, and the first Model T Ford had only come off the factory line 14 years earlier. So we need to look at the roots of road rage lying in the good old days of the horse and carriage.

Although one website (www.DrDriving.org) states that road rage was a problem even in horse-and-chariot Roman times, the first anti-road rage laws were passed in the 19th century, reportedly in an effort to stop drivers from "barreling home" and getting into altercations in their horse-driven carriages after a big night at the local tavern (www.DrDriving.org).

Murder on Bligh Sreet – Carriage driver arrested

Mr Thomas C. Pilner, a local hansom cab driver, was yesterday murdered in the street after quarrelling with another cab driver.

According to Mrs Muriel Cuthbert, a minister’s wife shopping for a new bonnet in the street at the time, the incident occurred when Mr Pilner urged his horses to accelerate around the corner of Bligh and Snetton Streets. As his animals complied, his carriage ran in front of another cab, which teetered as its driver attempted to manoeuvre out of the way.

“There was a tremendous shout - such foul language! – as the driver tried to right the carriage,” Mrs Cuthbert said. “As soon as his horses had settled, he turned and chased the other driver. Now I do believe I’m in need of a sip of brandy.”

Other witnesses stated that upon the second cab driver reaching Mr Pilner’s carriage, he pulled alongside and shouted at him. The men called out to each other, using language not suitable for the ears of the respectable society members present in the street, and came to a halt in front of Deacon’s Confectionary.

There, the men exited their carriages and engaged in fisticuffs.

The local constabulary was called but by their arrival at 1.14pm Mr Pilner was deceased. The second carriage driver was arrested for murder.

Mr Pilner is the third man to have been assaulted as a result of violence between carriage drivers this year.

New York Times, May 15, 1895

Okay, so I made that up. But there is this excerpt from a letter which Lord Byron wrote to his good friend Thomas Moore in 1817 ...

Last week I had a row on the road with a fellow in a carriage, who was impudent to my horse. I gave him a swinging box on the ear, which sent him to the police, who dismissed the complaint.

Road Rage is an affliction which probably happens to almost everyone who drives. All that needs to occur is to have your schedule trashed by the inconsiderate person who is toodling along 20 miles per hour below the posted speed. This is on the part of the highway that is passing-restricted. As soon as they come to a passing zone they look in the rearview mirror and by God, there's good ol' boy Richard Petty, complete with cowboy hat and mirrored shades staring back. Down goes the pedal and everyone who has been stuck behind them for the last 10 miles sees them take off like a scalded cat. This transformation lasts until the next no passing zone where ol' Richard disappears, and we're dragging along single file again.

Road rage is like a whole panoply of other behaviors indulged in by humans whereby they can display their inherent foolishness/inconsideration. I remember a sterling case in point, and I was the road rager.

This happened the summer just after I turned 18, and I was bad. I was on a certain highway in the big city, and there were 2 lanes going my way. I was in the right lane, but it ended up ahead. I squeezed the gas down and shot into the left lane ahead of another car. It was a dark colored Plymouth sedan but hey, I had a Plymouth too. Mine was an ex cop car, had the huge 440 hemi engine, and it'd pass anything but a gas pump. I mean that baby sucked it down, but while it was sucking gas it was strolling!

The car I'd cut off blipped his horn, which didn't really increase my jolly quotient. You know the internal dialogue that goes through your head. Asking yourself the eternally entertaining question "I wonder if he'd like to have his stupid butt kicked?"

We proceeded about 10 blocks, crossed a bridge and got stopped by a red light. I'm sitting there waiting for the light to change, and Mr. Brown Plymouth gets out of his car and starts walking toward me. This guy, kinda small, in a suit is gonna walk up and give me chong? I don't think so. I had my left arm braced against the door, my right hand ready to trip the release, and the big plan was to bang him down with the door and do a tap dance on his forehead. This clown ruined my carefully laid strategy by stopping behind the door, and holds something out for me to see. It was a badge and on it was written "U S Marshall" Yeah, Mr Plymouth 'rolled the gold' on me..

Dearly beloved, I can't express adequately how fast my head of steam totally evaporated. It was one of those electric moments, the kind where shock rolls over your entire body like falling into an icy brook. In pirate's parlance, the wind totally left my sails. It struck me exactly what I had almost done. Assault on a Federal law enforcement officer doesn't look particularly good on an employment application. Of course, I wouldn't be needing employment for quite a while. I'd probably be eligible for parole right about now.

He very calmly informed me the lane I'd been in was a right turn lane, not a through lane. Trust me when I say to you my command of the English language was reduced to 2 words, those being "Yes sir."

The moral is while it's easy enough to get steamed it may help to remember that you might be the one in error. If you aren't at fault you still don't know the person you're enraged with. They could be a U S Marshall, a minister, or Hannibal Lecter's twin brother jonesing for some munchies. Sometimes, the greatest war is the one you don't start.

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