Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Road Rage - A Life Hack From A Mind Reader

I've seen countless road rage videos pop up on various online news outlets.  Without fail, some fool-in-a-hurry ends up bobbing and weaving dangerously through traffic, sometimes causing accidents, sometimes ending up in confrontations with people who have been endangered by the thoughtless stupidity of the buffoon behind the wheel.

Having been a driver for over twenty years now, I am rarely surprised that these videos tend to do well.  All of us have at one time or another been frustrated by the inane actions of these oblivious maniacs, and the appeal of watching a video in which they instantly receive their comeuppance is tantalizing.

How many of us, doing the speed limit, have watched in frustration as a vehicle cuts out from immediately behind ours and then subsequently haphazardly bobs and weaves, speeding dangerously through traffic, only to end up two or three stop lights later being only one or two car lengths ahead of us?

What is the point of this lunacy?  

What do these drivers gain?  

Very little.

Studies have shown that in normal traffic, a driver who speeds and weaves through traffic gains something like 40 seconds overall.

That's it.

There is also a human element to the problem.  These people gain very little in the way of time, but they cause a great deal in the way of negative emotions.  In the same way that people dislike seeing someone cut into a queue ahead of them, people who are obeying the rules of the road become outraged when they see someone arbitrarily break the etiquette that both makes us civilized and keeps us safe.

In a fit of pique, they chase these people down and begin confrontations in which they inevitably further upset themselves - largely because they've abandoned their civilized roots and find themselves becoming as barbarous as the person they despised.

You've heard the phrase 'Never argue with an idiot - they'll drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.'  That's what happens:

You get up next to the guy in the car and begin to ask him what his 'deal' is.  He bristles and asks you what your 'deal' is.  You try to explain your 'deal', only to discover that the guy in the car didn't really care what your 'deal' was, and he wasn't asking to be polite either.  Stronger and stronger language is used, and either the light goes green and the bad driving recommences - this time on the parts of both parties (infuriating the drivers behind you) - or someone gets out of their car.  If this happens, then things really get bad and the offended driver now realizes that this meathead he was chastising believes he should solve this argument not with logic and reason, but with brute force.

Road rage, huh?  You just can't win.

So, having seen a number of pretentiously labelled 'Life Hacks' online, I've decided to share one of my own.  My method of dealing with these bad drivers.

When considering bad drivers, let's look at the facts:
  • These people are in a hurry and so value their time above yours and safety in general.
  • When you confront them, you are likely to take simmering resentment and turn it into boiling fury.
  • Typically either belligerent in nature or generally aloof to your concerns, they will not see the error of their ways and you will not get an apology from them.
  • Their inherent volatility suggests that the situation is likely to escalate beyond your control.
With these facts in mind, what is needed is a solution which is both subtle and elegant, and which (solely to be ironic) violates a small measure of another aspect of the broader implied social contract that they've just broken.  

So what do we do?  We use this broadly implied social contract to their disadvantage, and take advantage of the fact that as humans, we generally expect others to be honest with us.

My 'Life Hack' is this (use at your own peril and discretion, I take no responsibility for what subsequently happens) :

Wait until you have a chance to pull up next to these people - don't follow them, it will usually happen naturally on its own.  Roll down your window, and with a smile and wave, get their attention and ask them to roll down theirs.  Look solicitous and concerned for them.  And when they've responded and you have the chance to address them, simply say 'I'm sorry to tell you this, but your car is dropping tons of radiator fluid'.  They will check their instruments, become worried, and thank you for telling them.  The light then changes and you drive away while they pull over.

Consider this: 

  • There is no bitter recrimination that leads to an acrimonious dispute.  
  • There is no arguing that leads to an even greater sense of resentment on your part.
  • The dangerous driver - keen on gaining time - now loses it as he pulls over to examine his vehicle.
  • The dangerous driver also has a shift of expectations as regards his schedule - a moment ago, he was trying to get somewhere quickly, but now, those plans are in the bin because his vehicle has failed him.  This adjustment of attitude will help him subsequently see his schedule with more flexibility.
  • The driver is now worried about the costs of fixing the vehicle.
  • The driver will be relieved that the vehicle is okay and will consider the advice of the person who warned him an honest mistake.  I mean, why would anyone pull them over and tell them a random lie - it must have been some other car they saw leaking fluid.
  • You will be long gone, and out of the way of a potential confrontation.
So there we have it!  

My 'Life Hack' for road rage.  Now, I don't condone road raging in the slightest.  But I know that whether I approve of it or not, it will still happen and terrible things will come as a result.  

If you must do it, at least do it in a way that shows class, style, and sophistication - and avoids a dangerous confrontation. 

Better yet, learn to take a breath and let things go.  




  1. Has your driving improved in those 20 years? That car salesman you almost hit is probably still having nightmares!

  2. What if they then catch you up at the next red light?

  3. What if they then catch you up at the next red light?