Johannesburg - Every day we see videos published online showing motorists ‘losing it’ and getting into physical altercations; recently a confrontation between a Johannesburg Metro Police Department officer and a taxi driver made headlines, while a shooting incident, allegedly over a parking spot, left a Pietermaritzburg motorist dead and his passenger critically injured.
Incidents like these are becoming both more frequent and more violent as South Africans get increasingly stressed out by congested traffic in all our major cities, as well as life’s demands, both personal and professional.
As somebody who has to deal with the results of road rage on a daily basis, Dial Direct boss Maanda Tshifularo quotes the late Michael Jackson, saying that to reduce road rage, we should ‘start with the man in the mirror’.
“Road rage often has very little to do with traffic,” he said. “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, provoking the kind of anger that leads to anything from a shouting match to loss of life.
“We owe it to ourselves and other road users to be better drivers, to manage our own stress factors and to control our reaction to other people’s outbursts.”
Are you a road rage risk?
Tshifularo put forward the following six questions that you should ask yourself:
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, he said, you’re at risk, and you should be proactive about letting go of these bad habits.
Tshifularo suggested these five strategies for dialling down the risk of road rage:
Don’t take it personally. Remember that the other driver’s bad driving and/or attitude probably has nothing to do with you. It’s far more likely he was distracted by something in his car or upset about something else, and he wasn’t deliberately trying to piss you off.
Be defensive. Putting your car - or even your life - on the line isn’t worth it. Stick to the rules of the road and hold your line, but be ready to back off if you see the situation is going to escalate. De-stress by composing a strongly-worded email to the local traffic services in your head, about this driver’s bad behaviour (try to memorise his number plate!) and, just as important, where it happened.
If the authorities get enough emails about a particular bad driving hotspot, they’ll have to address the cause to avoid embarrassing questions.
Plan your trip. If you habitually allow just enough time to drive to an appointment, you’re also prone to frustration if you’re going to be late. Leave 10 minutes earlier, to give yourself time to negotiate roadworks or other unexpected delays, and you can drive more calmly.
Change the radio channel. Don’t laugh, it works. Listen to music that relaxes you, rather than hypes you up - or listen to an audiobook of that novel you've been meaning to read for months.
Take your issues off the road. Address the issues - personal, professional or emotional - that stress you out directly, rather than let them boil over into your driving. Don’t be too proud to ask for help - counselling isn’t only for A-type personalities; talking to a professional can help you get some balance back in your life.
But he started it!
These are Tshifularo’s tips for dealing with another driver’s road rage:
Make sure that your car’s doors and windows are closed and locked.
Don’t confront the raging driver - that can only make things worse. Take a few deep breaths, keep your cool and focus on defusing the situation.
Actively try to memorise the number plate of his vehicle so you can report them to the police 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.
Adjust your attitude
“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”, Tshifularo said.
“A long hard look at yourself, changing those bad habits and taking a defensive attitude when things go wrong can help make South Africa’s roads that much safer.”