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Raging Road-Hogs

A recent AA survey shows aggressive driving is now a significant part of SA road culture.

During the past year South Africa recorded at least nine cases of road rage, all of which had fatal results. In one, a motorist used a hockey stick to beat a fellow road user to death, and in another a driver allegedly shot and killed a motorcyclist who had accidentally bumped the wing mirror of his car.

Current South African legislation does not describe road rage as an offence, so no accurate data and statistics are available. However, research based on anecdotal evidence suggests road rage is indeed on the increase, particularly in metropolitan areas.

Says  the AASA, “Road rage can be defined as: ‘an incident in which an angry or impatient motorist or passenger intentionally injures or kills another motorist, passenger or pedestrian, or attempts or threatens to injure or kill another motorist, passenger or pedestrian’. Aggressive driving does not necessarily lead to road rage, but it is often the precursor to or trigger of a road rage incident, which can be differentiated from other traffic incidents by its wilful and criminal nature.”

Explains the AASA , “Road rage is often a release of pent-up anger that is expressed when you climb in your car. When you shake your fist at someone who cuts you off, you may be angry with your boss. Or when another driver prevents you from moving into his lane, he may have had his loan application rejected.” Stress and depression can lead to road rage. And in a society desensitised by violence, aggressive behaviour is becoming more common on South African roads - motorists pull dangerously in front of others, follow too closely, shout obscenities, and make rude gestures.

Aggressive road use

In the survey conducted by the AA amongst Johannesburg drivers, the experiences respondents described were “more cases of aggressive road use rather than definitive road rage itself,” says the AASA . “But nearly all of them had experienced aggressive driving - either as victims or perpetrators.”

  • Most respondents rated themselves as good or excellent drivers, and had been driving for 16 years on average.
  • Almost all drive on a daily basis and 63.6 per cent had experienced anger being directed at them. This suggests a high degree of intolerance amongst drivers in the Johannesburg metropolitan area.
  • 47.7 per cent of respondents, both perpetrators and victims, were accompanied by children during the episodes of verbal or physical abuse. Such behaviour can reinforce aggressive habit formation in children.
  • The most common age groups from which abuse was generated were the under-20s (30 per cent) and those aged between 20 and 25 (17 per cent). (Other respondents were unsure of the perpetrator’s age group.)
  • 1.1 per cent admitted assaulting another driver, while 3.4 per cent reported having been assaulted.

Solving the problem

Voluntary compliance with traffic laws and conditions should be the chief goal of any anti-aggressive driver campaign. Individual drivers need to be aware of their own driving practices and to keep their emotions in check when venturing onto the road.

This could be encouraged through extensively focused media, educational and law enforcement campaigns aimed at changing the mind-set of drivers. The reintroduction of a road user or driver education syllabus in the school system where tolerance, courtesy and patience are taught to our young drivers would also go a long way to decreasing accidents on our roads, as would enforcement of traffic rules relating to aggressive and dangerous driving. Visible policing would have an immediate impact on traffic criminality, provided that moving offences were strictly targeted.

Urgent action needs to be taken. Educating our children in proper road use, fostering a culture of road tolerance, and strengthening the perception that law enforcers will identify and prosecute offenders with vigour, will have a positive impact on our road safety record.

Tips for Avoiding Road Rage

  • Be a considerate, polite driver.
  • Always remain calm while driving.
  • Drive defensively, not aggressively.

Do not retaliate if another driver does something stupid or dangerous.

Give way to better road manners

On a freeway, a motorist is not justified in keeping to the right-hand lane and obliging traffic to overtake him on his left simply because he is driving at the legally allowed maximum speed. Another motorist may have a valid reason for exceeding the limit, and to obstruct him unreasonably may lead to the building up of a dangerous situation in which bad temper may overcome good judgment.

In an emergency, switch on your emergency hazard lights as well as your headlights while driving at a safe speed. Obey the rules of the road and don’t drive recklessly.

This advice comes from the Automobile Association following reports received from motorists who are playing “policeman” and blocking the right-hand (overtaking) lane of a multi-lane carriageway.

Although driving in the emergency lane during daylight hours is permitted under certain conditions, following traffic has no right to force traffic ahead to move across the yellow line to allow overtaking. It may be courteous to move over but it places the onus on you to ensure that it is safe to do so.

The AA urges motorists to be more tolerant and patient on our roads by driving defensively rather than aggressively.

Road courtesy - makes driving a pleasure for all.

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