Road rage often has to do with what a person is going through, rather than traffic, says the writer. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
After a shooting incident following an alleged dispute over a parking spot recently left a Pietermaritzburg motorist dead and his passenger critically injured, the urgency of addressing the road-rage pandemic in South Africa is in the spotlight again.

Incidents like the ones in these videos are becoming increasingly common on our roads, seemingly growing in frequency as traffic, personal and professional demands, as well as stress levels see people under ever more pressure.

Road rage often has very little to do with traffic. If you’re already at boiling point following an argument with your boss, for example, a driver who cuts in front of you could send you over the edge - turning into the kind of rage that leads to anything from a minor upset to loss of life.

We owe it to ourselves and other road users to be better drivers, to pro-actively manage our time and the factors that lead to road rage better and to control our emotions and reactions to our own stress, as well as to other people’s outbursts.

Dialdirect offers the following advice to determine whether you are a rage prone driver, how to avoid road rage and how best to react to a raging driver:

Six questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re prone to rage:

Do I regularly exceed the speed limit to get to work on time?

Do I drive too close to other drivers?

Do I flash my lights and hoot to let drivers know when they annoy me?

Do I curse or shout at other drivers whether they can hear me or not?

Do I frequently weave in and out of traffic to get ahead?

Do I feel the need to set bad drivers straight?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you could be at risk.

Take proactive action to address this and let go of these bad habits.

How to avoid road rage

Don’t take bad behaviour personally. When encountering another motorist’s bad driving and/or seemingly arrogant attitude, remember that it probably has nothing to do with you.

It is far more likely that that driver was distracted by something in his/her own car, or upset by something else and the ensuing behaviour was not meant to deliberately irk you.

Defensive first. Putting your vehicle and life on the line isn’t worth it.

Be firm in obeying the rules, maintaining your line and sticking to your rights, but be prepared to step back if you see that the situation is about to escalate. Rather report bad drivers to the authorities and alert these authorities to bad driver behaviour hotspots.

Plan properly. If you are the type of person who allows just enough time to drive to an appointment, you might be more prone to temper and speeding.

Add 10 minutes to your expected journey time and leave on time. This will allow you to better negotiate road works or other unexpected delays, without worrying about being late and will make you calmer driver overall. Use the navigation technology at your disposal to make your journey smoother.

Change the radio channel. Listen to music that relaxes you, rather than hypes you up. Or use the time to listen to an audio book of that novel you’ve been meaning to read for months.

Tackle those issues off the road. If things are amiss in a professional or personal relationship, or stress has a hold of you, address these issues directly as soon as possible and get them resolved. Don’t be too proud and think that counselling is only for a certain profile of person. Professional help could help you to get much-needed balance back in your life and make you less of a danger to yourself and others.

How to react when dealing with a raging motorist:

Make sure that your car's doors and windows are closed and locked.

Do not confront the raging driver, as this could worsen the situation. Breathe, maintain your composure and focus on defusing the situation.

Try to remember the licence number of the driver's vehicle to report them to the police and/or the company they represent.

Leave the scene as soon and as safely as possible.

If the raging driver prevents you from doing so, or you are involved in an accident with a raging driver, call for help immediately by either contacting the police or using the Namola app.

If you see the road as a good place to settle life's scores, it could cost you anything from a couple of thousand rand, to a prison sentence.

A healthy self-evaluation, a defensive attitude, some good habitual changes and restraint when things go awry could make SA’s roads that much safer.

Maanda Tshifularo

Head: DialDrirect