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News Room

South African Motorists Love Swearing

Jason Snyman
2019-11-08
Numerous studies have revealed that swearing, shouting and hurling insults at other drivers is our go-to coping mechanism when driving under stressful conditions. Here's how to curb that rage, and how to survive finding yourself on the receiving end of it!

Driving is one of the few things we do in modern life that, sooner or later, is guaranteed to bring out the worst in all of us. At one point or another, we all snap. 

It’s right up there with listening to mumble rap or actively trying to learn vape tricks. One day you take a look at yourself in the mirror and, with a shudder, realise what you’ve become. A monster. 

Tempers flare behind the wheel. Why? Because, inherently, we all believe that every other motorist around us is an absolute idiot and shouldn’t be allowed on the road. Those that drive slower than us are morons, and those that drive faster than us are lunatics. It's a fact. 

It’s gotten to the point that some of us even get road rage when operating a supermarket trolley, or standing in line, or even just walking. In fact, two years ago, a mall in Britain added Slow and Fast lanes after receiving complaints about sluggish walkers.  

The truth is that there are a variety of problems at fault. Many people carry daily stress around with them, with no effective means of dealing with their frustrations, or letting off some steam.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, and it doesn’t matter where you live. When driving under high-pressure conditions, such as peak traffic, there are so many external factors just piling on and piling on that any among us could eventually explode. 

Congestion. The weather. Roadworks or repairs. Ineffective policing. Discourtesy from other drivers. A barrage of distractions such as chatty passengers, crying children and ringing phones. Fatigue. The constant gnawing of work stress. Time lost – time that you’ll never get back. 

So, it’s little wonder that we encounter so many irate motorists on our roads. How do they all vent their frustrations?
 

South African Motorists Love Swearing

This is but one of the many ways in which South Africans choose to vent their frustrations – at other road users. 

In the results of a Wheels24 poll last year, 43% of drivers admitted to swearing often while driving, 26% admitted to swearing almost constantly, 24% admitted to swearing only on a particularly bad day and just 7% have admitted to possessing Buddhist Monk-type levels of self-restraint. 

You don’t really know how to swear until you know how to drive.

Furthermore, a study published by OnePoll (commissioned by Hyundai) revealed that the average South African driver swears 41 times for every 160km travelled – or around 152 times a month.

Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban drivers, of course, scoff at such trifling numbers, and could probably rack up thousands of Tarantino-level expletives within a single city block.

The study revealed that almost half of all drivers swear most while behind the wheel and are prone to losing their cool, while also revealing that most of us don’t even feel bad about it afterwards. The top causes for swearing, shouting and insulting other drivers were listed as:
 

  • Reaction to breaking of a traffic rule;
  • Reaction to witnessing dangerous driving behaviour, such as speeding or swerving or playing with a phone;
  • Reaction to another driver putting you in danger, and;
  • Stress.

On the results of the study, Hyundai said: 

It’s been fascinating to delve into the mindset of drivers with this research, which has been commissioned as part of Clean Driving Month where we’re calling on all drivers to drive a little bit cleaner. Whether that’s getting in the right mindset to keep their attitude and language clean, improving their driving style or championing the benefits of alternative fuels.

How To Put Up With Other People’s Terrible Driving

We 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. There’s a good chance that you’ve called some of the nicest people in the world some of the most horrific things;
  • 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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