Do not feed the rage
by Peter Tan. Posted on January 11, 2015, Sunday
THE world has become a more brutal place. Civility is being thrown out the window and replaced with violence. Some of us get angry over the pettiest of issues. Conflicts are settled not through dialogues and diplomacy but with fists and weapons.
A calm person can turn into a demon when behind the wheel. It is not uncommon to read about incidents of road rage where drivers turn into bullies in the news and social media nowadays.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines road rage as “a motorist’s uncontrolled anger that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act and is expressed in aggressive or violent behaviour”.
That definition is not entirely correct. Road rage can arise from an act as innocuous as honking a reckless driver or an unintentional fender bender. At its mildest the victim is at the receiving end of vulgarities and at its worst physical violence.
Perhaps, the most famous road bullying incident in Malaysia in recent times happened in July last year. A woman was caught on video berating an elderly man and hit his car several times with a steering lock.
He had knocked into her car while attempting to drive out of a crowded car park. The woman was heard demanding a compensation of RM2,000 for the minor accident in the video, which went viral after it was posted online.
She was later fined RM5,000 in default three months’ jail and ordered to undertake 240 hours of community work after pleading guilty at the Kuantan Sessions Court.
However, incidents like this do not always end with the victim unscathed. This week, the local entertainment circle was shocked by the death of showbiz promoter Stephen Joseph due to road rage.
It was reported that Joseph and his family were planning to have their dinner at a food court in Petaling Jaya on Monday. His wife got down to reserve a parking space for their vehicle. Another driver who was also looking for a parking space is said to have shouted at them for doing that. During their argument Joseph was assaulted.
Joseph experienced breathing difficulties a while later and was rushed to the hospital but lost consciousness on the way there. The police were informed of his death in the emergency ward at around 4am on Tuesday.
It is hard to comprehend that death could result from a dispute over a parking space. Indeed, some people are living on short fuses. Their tempers can be activated by the slightest trigger, which causes them to explode in a fit of blinding rage. Such outbursts may be blamed on the stress of modern living, work pressures and traffic jams but resorting to violence can never be justified. Whatever the circumstances, verbal and physical abuse cannot solve a problem.
In the seven years since I started driving, I have had the misfortune of encountering road bullies on city roads and expressways. They can be men or women and have no consideration for driving etiquette, refuse to give way, jump queue aggressively and generally think they own the road.
There was an incident that I remember well. I had just come off a slip road with my right signal blinking, looking to merge into the crawling traffic. As I slowly eased into a wide gap, the car behind suddenly accelerated to cut me off.
I did not know better then. My initial reaction was to challenge him. I drove slightly forward and tried again. He closed the gap again. I looked at him. There was smug look on his face as he gesticulated rudely at me with his hand. In the end, I found a gap a few cars ahead and merged in without problem.
While we cannot control how the other party reacts, we on our part can de-escalate a tense situation by keeping a cool head and not responding to provocations. It takes two hands to clap and we should avoid being the other hand.
When confronted by a road bully, it is useful to note down the number plate, colour and make of vehicle, and where possible, a description of the driver to make a police report if necessary. If we feel threatened or that the situation could turn ugly, drive to the nearest police station or call for police assistance.
If we are forced to stop, never wind down the window or get out of the car to argue. Road bullies have no sense of right or wrong. They are raring for a fight and want to win at all costs. It is best not to feed that ego and rage. The most sensible approach is to apologise no matter who is in the wrong. Letting them win can defuse a tense situation.
For those who are prone to aggressive behaviour while on the road, the next time you feel like you were wronged by another driver, stop for a moment and run this through your mind before reacting. Bullying to the extent of damaging other vehicles, endangering lives or causing bodily harm is an offence punishable by law.
Nothing is so serious on the road that it cannot be resolved amicably and without violence. No one can make you angry but yourself. If keeping your outburst in check is a problem, there are counsellors who can help with anger management.
Violence never solved anything. Being right and winning in an argument is not everything. Think about yourself. Think about your family and the shame they have to bear should you be sent to prison. Is that one moment of indiscretion worth the heavy price you have to pay?
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