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Road rage in America

By Uche Onyebadi
Road Rage is an international phenomenon. If you have driven a car for any reasonable length of time, you may have encountered this form of rage on a number of occasions. It all begins when the person controlling the other car drives aggressively, leaving you in some form of danger. You honk your horn, and the other person responds in kind. Then, the altercation ensues.

In some countries and in some instances, road rage ends when both parties feel satisfied that they had sufficiently traded insults, and that such activity was not worth their time any more. In the U.S., road rage is a form of social disease. It doesn’t always end on the impolite note of insults and abuses. Quite often, guns are pulled out to settle the matter. And the end is not always pleasant.

Last week, Kay Hafford, a Houston resident was driving to work when she felt that the other driver had improperly cut into her lane. Her husband, Kendrick, who was not in the car with her at the time of the incident, told reporters that “she let him know by blowing her horn that he shouldn’t have cut her off.” That was all it took for the other driver to vent his anger on the lady. He pulled his car adjacent to the lady, pulled out his gun, shot her in the head and sped away. Fortunately, the lady was conscious enough to call 911 for help. Doctors managed to extract the bullet from her head and stabilized her. The Houston Police are still looking for the man.

Last month (February), Tammy Meyers, was giving her daughter a driving lesson in Las Vegas when they encountered a road rage. This time, what led to the incident was not clear. Media reports say that mother and daughter drove home after the incident. But, they were still in their drive-way when the car they had earlier encountered reappeared. Some young boys were in it. One of them allegedly pulled out his gun and unleashed some gun shots. At the end of the day, Tammy lay dead. The matter is now in court, although not all the boys have been apprehended.

Road Rage has a definition. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says this phenomenon occurs if and when a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle.” The same organization makes a distinction between “aggressive driving” and “road rage”. But this distinction appears to be more academic than real. At the base of every road rage is some form of aggressive driving that results in cursing, finger-wagging, the shouting of obscene, crude and rude words, fist-fights, shooting and the rest of such anti-social behaviour.

According to the American Safety Council and Safety Mostorist.Com, drivers need to answer the following questions in order to determine if they willfully or unknowingly engage in aggressive driving which precipitates road rage:

.Do you regularly drive over the speed limit, or try to “beat” red lights because you are in a hurry?

.Do you tailgate or flash your headlights at a driver in front of you that you believe is driving too slowly?

.Do you honk the horn often?

.Do you ever use obscene gestures or otherwise communicate angrily at another driver?

.Do you frequently use your phone while driving, or otherwise drive while distracted?

.Do you keep your high beams on, regardless of oncoming traffic?

.Do you switch lanes or make turns without using your turn signal?

.Do you fail to check your blind spot before switching lanes to make sure you aren’t cutting someone off?

Statistics available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on aggressive driving and road rage show the following:

.66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.

.37% of aggressive driving incidents involve a firearm.

.Males under the age of 19 are the most likely to exhibit road rage.

.Half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves.

.Over a seven year period, 218 murders and 12,610 injuries were attributed to road rage.

.2% of drivers admit to trying to run an aggressor off the road.

(see http://www.safemotorist.com/articles/road_rage.aspx)

AutoAdvantage.com is another website that tracks road rage and aggressive behaviour, among other traffic matters. Its report shows that the worst city where these traffic behaviour occurs most is Miami, Florida. Other cities in the top five of this recklessness on the roads are New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. On the other hand, the cities with most courteous drivers are Portland, Pittsburgh, Seattle, St. Louis and Dallas.

What is remarkable about aggressive driving and road rage in the U.S. is the likelihood to use guns to settle traffic disputes. According to smallarmssurvey.org, the U.S. tops the list in global gun ownership, with an average of 88.8 people in every 100 owning a firearm. A 2012 CNN report claimed that there were 310 firearms in the U.S. with a population of 315 million. The purchase of such guns could be possible without necessary background checks. All 50 states in the country now permit the carrying of concealed weapons. In other words, you may not know that the person standing or sitting by your side has a gun somewhere on him or her, until the need arises to use it. In this type of situation, it is no rocket science to contend that when some drivers surrender their sanity to the demon known as road rage and aggressive driving, guns might be pulled out to govern human interaction.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.