If you’ve ever been the recipient of another motorist’s one-finger salute after making a boneheaded move in traffic, you likely realize that road rage is alive and well on Texas roads. You may have even been the offender flipping off another motorist at some point.
And while shooting the bird to a driver who cuts you off when merging may not leave any lasting damage, there is no doubt that some incidents of road rage have escalated to dangerous collisions and even murderous actions.
But what contributes to a nation of angry and frustrated drivers? It turns out there are a number of factors.
Not seeing the motorist as a person
Life can be frustrating. We see this at the grocery store when a senior citizen holds up the line counting coins for the cashier or in the line at McDonald’s when a kid can’t make up his mind about nuggets or a burger in the Happy Meal.
Yet frustrated shoppers or diners rarely “go postal” in the lines at the register. That’s because they recognize the humanity of the person struggling with their task.
That’s not always the case when “Jeep Guy” or the “Lady in the Red SUV” cuts you off and you miss your exit. It’s easier for drivers to vent their spleens against an anonymous driver they don’t have to look in the eye.
But there are plenty of other intensifiers of road rage.
Propensity for violence
Some drivers’ default mode is anger. That’s the typical way they respond to adverse conditions at work and at home, so for them, it’s perfectly natural to lash out on the highways, too.
Disgust at cellphone usage by motorists
We’ve all seen drivers too engaged in their cellphones behind the wheel to notice that the light has turned green or the traffic in front has begun braking. If those distracted drivers put other motorists in danger, some may respond with road rage.
Avoiding an attack of road rage
Driving is not an exact science and motorists make mistakes. If you do something dumb or unsafe, it might be helpful to hold up your hands in the universal gesture of supplication and mouth the word, “sorry!”
If another driver flips you off, don’t return the gesture. You can’t know what he or she is capable of doing, so best to play it safe and ignore it.
It’s also wise to give a very wide berth to any driver who exhibits signs of road rage. Let them pass or merge and then get as far away as is possible even if that means taking an unexpected exit.
What to do if attacked
Your best bet is to limit the damage an enraged motorist seeks to inflict. But if he or she causes you to have an accident that results in injuries or property damage, you may need to take legal action and file criminal charges or a claim for damages in the Texas civil courts.