Our nation’s highways and byways have become exceedingly more dangerous in recent times. Back in the day, the most you had to worry about was an extended middle finger or a bloody nose. These days, you’re fortunate to make it home alive.
We’ve become a nation of hot-tempered, trigger-happy souls who settle their differences with guns, knives, and motor vehicles used as weapons. Motorists are getting shot dead at the wheel with great regularity because they have somehow offended someone else with a screw loose. I’ve seen vehicles ram other vehicles or have clipped others because they were hell bent to be first. I’ve even been passed up by crazies…young bucks doing 130 in their buzzy imports on the shoulder in great exhibitions of speed. When is all this mechanized insanity going to get the attention of law enforcement? It is like law enforcement has given up and is looking the other way.
Where is law enforcement? The California Highway Patrol (CHP) used to be all over the freeways maintaining a presence to slow speeders down. People are so bold today that they will roar through a radar trap at 80 mph. With all the negative media attention, lawsuits against police departments and municipalities, tiresome paperwork, and great risk to their own lives, police officers are choosing to stay out it. Law enforcement agencies are having a rough time recruiting new police officers. The consequences for a traffic stop are too great.
I think it is time for self-reflection in all of us because we’ve become collectively dangerous. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a driver in recent years too. My anger level is high with these crazy circus stunt acts, mostly by young people who perceive life is one big video game and the agenda is to win at all costs. These acts make my blood boil, which makes me just as dangerous as they are.
So, what about that?
It has often been said your temper can cost you a fortune.
A friend of mine has been involved in a couple of road rage accidents that got him in serious trouble. Humbled by the second accident, he decided to look at his own behavior and how dangerous he had become at the wheel. My friend is a rarity because most of us like to blame others instead of accepting responsibility for our own foolishness. This is known as cognitive thinking, which means taking a closer look at how you reaction to situations.
With each of my own dangerous experiences at the wheel, I realized it doesn’t matter what the other driver does – it matters how I respond. In each of these situations, I responded with anger and rage. I was coming onto the freeway when a pickup truck tried to run me off the entrance ramp. I responded with fury and chased the guy. As he exited the freeway, I came down the exit ramp and went around him on his right. My mirror clipped his mirror without damage – but there was utter shock in what I had done.
More recently, some idiot made a lane change in front of me right across my front bumper. Enraged, I hit my high beams, which naturally enflamed the situation. He slowed down. I made a lane change across four lanes and roared past him on the right. Next thing I knew, he roared past me on the left and jumped in front of me, which was when it became scary. He wanted a piece of me – and worse yet – I was taking my wife to a surgical procedure.
What the hell was I thinking?
Not only did I scare her, but he also stayed quite close to us – side-by-side in a stare down – with no idea what was next. Imagine if he’d had a firearm or tried to ram us. That was again when I realized I was not only a dangerous driver – but also the ignition source for two instances of road rage that could have gotten us killed.
It is important to recognize our own weaknesses in all of this. A positive way to look at this is how we respond to others while at the wheel. We respond with rage because all most of us see is a vehicle. We don’t see the person inside. We would never respond with rage to their faces.
Back in the 1960s, the National Safety Council used to run campaigns and the words, “Watch Out For The Other Guy…” Never more has this been more important than it is today because we have greater distractions and a lot more people on the road. Before you react at the wheel – get calm and think about the consequences.