My husband gets annoyed at cars driving slowly in front of us. Sometimes I do too. But I remind him (and myself): What if this was your elderly mother in that car, unsure of where she’s going? Or your daughter, when she was learning to drive?
We both also get miffed at cars speeding around us, cutting in and out of traffic. I like to imagine there’s some emergency the driver is dealing with, taking a pregnant wife to the hospital for example. Better than thinking, “what an a-hole!”
I guess I’m trying to keep things calm as I’ve heard too many stories of road rage. You never know if an angry driver, in a moment of adrenaline-driven frustration, will pull out a gun. It has happened.
Recently, I was a witness to road rage. It scared the crap out of me. Here’s what happened.
We were driving with a visiting couple to a dinner in the suburbs of Chicago. At one point, we noticed the two drivers in front of us in the left lane of a two-lane road were having some kind of dispute. When we stopped at a red light, the guy in the small car directly in front of us opened his door and yelled at the guy in the very large pick-up truck in front of him “What are you doing?”
I knew in my body something bad was about to happen. I started yelling at Peter, who was driving (our friends were in the back seat), to “get away from them!” Peter said “there’s nowhere for me to go!” and I told him to get into the right lane. Thankfully, he did that. Now we were right next to the pick-up truck, and still stuck at the red light.
Just before the light turned green, the driver of the truck revved his engine and pulled forward into the intersection, then slammed on this brakes and reversed at high speed into the small car behind him, then took off, tires squealing.
The truck was barely scratched but the small car’s front was smashed in. Our friends in the back seat wanted us to keep going (“don’t get involved, it’s not safe”) but there was no way we would do that.
We pulled over, then Peter crossed through traffic to go see if the driver of the small car was ok. Thankfully, he was, although very shaken up. Peter gave him the truck’s license plate number, which we’d caught, along with his business card, and told him we’d act as witnesses to the incident. The driver was on the phone with the police and, thankfully, had been recording the altercation by the time the truck backed into him so he had proof and, as it turned out, did not need to rely on our eyewitness account.
I don’t know what caused the truck driver to get so angry he chose to ram into the vehicle behind him, and possibly cause severe damage to the driver. We didn’t see what led up to the incident. But nothing justified his behavior. And we weren’t going to be bystanders.
This incident has stayed with me; I continue to think about it often. I can only imagine the impact of witnessing violence that so many people in the US and around the world experience on a regular basis. I count myself fortunate to see this kind of rage only rarely.
YOUR TURN: Have you experienced or witnessed road rage? Please share your stories in the comments.