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Tips On How To Handle Road Rage

Author: Jason Snyman
Date: 2019-06-10
Road rage is something we’ve all had to go through. Whether you’re on the receiving end or the one doing the raging, here’s how to handle it.

They say that life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it. 

You may remember an incident that occured a little while ago, which received quite a bit of media coverage, in which a young man named Egan Vorster found himself on the receiving end of another, older man’s road rage. The man – referred to as ‘Mr Padvark’ in multiple social media posts containing videos of the incident – cut Vorster off by swerving in front of him and hurling obscenities at him. 

Vorster followed the older man down the road in Southern Paarl, where both vehicles came to a halt. Vorster remained in his car, quite calm, while the other jumped out brandishing a pickaxe handle, which he then used to assault Vorster with. The two have since reconciled through a ritualistic washing of one another's feet, but the incident did bring much-needed attention to the scale of road rage experienced by motorists every single day. 

Now, we’ve all been prone to a little bit of road rage. As the saying goes – anybody driving slower than you is a moron and anybody driving faster than you is a maniac. But, there comes a day when you wake up and realise that you’ve been driving around with a pickaxe handle in your boot. For the sole purpose of assaulting people in traffic. And then it’s time to change. 

In this article, we'll take a look at what really drives people to such levels of anger, the types of road rage categories, and what you can do to protect yourself when you find yourself on the receiving end.

Firstly, What Is Road Rage?

A few years ago, a study was undertaken in collaboration with the University of Natal Interdisciplinary Accident Research Centre, which categorized driver aggression into 4 sub-scales.  

We've all fallen into one or more of those categories at one time or another, and it's only natural.

Road rage is that uncontrollable feeling of wanting to plough your car into another driver’s car. Anybody who has ever lived in a city has experienced this feeling, and many of us have even given in to it. Because it’s not you – it’s them. 

These people don’t pay attention to construction signs and always fail to get into the correct lane on time. Then they try to worm their way into traffic in front of you. These people sitting there tweeting while the light has turned green. These people staring at Table Mountain instead of looking at what they’re doing on the road. As you pass them – you glare at them – to check if they really look as stupid as they drive. 

There’s a good chance that you’ve called some of the nicest people in the world some of the most horrific things. This is what traffic does to you. Hell, some of us might even get road rage just pushing a trolley around Pick n Pay. It only takes one slow-walking person to destroy the illusion that you’re a good person. You run on caffeine and fury. 

These people don’t know what to do at a 4-way stop. Why don’t they just stay at home? When you slow down to let somebody merge into traffic and they don’t do the 'thank you' wave. When the car in front of you keeps hitting the brakes for no good reason. They weave in and out of traffic at high speeds and still end up as the car right in front of you at the red light. These people speed up, cut you off and then suddenly slow down. Pedestrians take their sweet time crossing the road, staring at you. 

You can feel it, can’t you? The burn.

How To Deal With Other People’s Terrible Driving

CompareGuru spoke to Karen van Zyl from the Anger & Stress Management Centre. According to van Zyl, an adrenaline release triggers the fight or flight instinct within when we feel that somebody has done something unacceptable on the road. It often happens quickly and unexpectedly.

“The reaction may be irrational and instinctual,” says van Zyl. “Elevated stress levels can also play a part, as well as things like low blood sugar and lack of sleep.

We, as human beings, default into ‘tit-for-tat’ behaviour. For instance; if you change lanes in the middle of a turn, I might feel obligated to run you off the road and into a ditch. 

“We need to be constantly aware of our tolerance level,” says van Zyl.

If you’re going to snap at every single person for every little thing, sooner or later you may get hurt or end up in trouble with the law. Here are some things to remember when you feel the rage building up: 

  • You cannot change another person’s behaviour, only your own;
  • Mentally prepare yourself for your journey. Realise, that at some point some driver out there may do something which angers you;
  • Put on some calm music or an audio book or learn a language;
  • Try to make peace with the status quo;
  • People may flout rules of the road, but it is not in your control;
  • We are all human beings trying to get through life as best we can, and often we take silly risks and make stupid decisions;
  • Inhale, exhale, repeat;
  • Don’t take everything so personally.

How To Deal With People Who Think You’re A Terrible Driver

Road rage is the expression of the amateur sociopath in all of us, cured by running into a professional. Somebody said that once. 

So, you’re halfway home when you realize that you’ve legit zoned out and haven’t been paying attention at all. How are you alive? How do you have a licence? There’s a Toyota Hilux with a Free State licence plate behind you, laying on the horn. And then, the driver gets out of the car. People can be very unpredictable. 

“Rule of thumb is safety first,” says van Zyl.

  • Do not engage and try not to make eye contact. Basically, treat them as if they were a silverback gorilla;
  • If the person attempts to follow you, drive to the nearest police station or public space;
  • If there’s nobody else around, never pull over;
  • Irate people cannot be rationalized or reasoned with, wait for them to calm down;
  • Remember, they are engaging you solely on an irrationally emotional level.

Best tip of all? Be a courteous driver. Do not tailgate, do not block the passing lane and do not allow your own anger to get the better of you. Out there, good manners can save your life.  

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