Drivers are being encouraged to avoid getting involved in conflicts on journeys. The advice follows the two-year suspended prison sentence handed to a man following a ‘road rage’ attack in August last year. When the jailed man was former actor Harvey Spencer Stephens, who sprang to fame as devil child Damien in the 1976 movie The Omen, it caught greater public attention.
The UK road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist’s road safety officer, Neil Worth, says some drivers believe it is acceptable to behave on the road in a way they would never dream of behaving in other areas of their lives.
"This is most likely because being in the car has the effect of dehumanising a situation of conflict," he says. "We tend to ignore the risk of possible consequences, either to ourselves or to other road users, so we allow our frustration and anger to be directed at those who get in our way or whose driving actions displease us.”
Worth has identified a few steps (taken from its Courtesy on the Road leaflet ) that will hopefully reduce the risk for a driver of being the target of someone else’s aggression:
1. Keep calm and show restraint. Every journey brings the risk of frustration and conflict. Make a pledge to be patient. Avoid using your horn or making gestures in anger.
2. Avoid competition and resist the desire to ‘get even’. If the standard of someone else’s driving disappoints you, don’t attempt to educate or rebuke them.
3. Do not push into traffic queues. If you wait and clearly signal, you will not wait long before another drive lets you in. But they do not like being forced into giving way.
4. Say thank you, say sorry. Courtesy encourages co-operation on the road. If you make a mistake or perhaps cut things a bit fine, then a gesture of apology avoids confrontation and helps defuse anger.
5. Move away from trouble. If you feel seriously threatened by another driver, then ensure your car doors locked and drive (at legal speed ) to the nearest police station or busy area (petrol station forecourts are ideal ). Use your mobile phone to alert the police. Pressing the horn repeatedly or continuously is likely to deter a potential attacker.
Neil Worth concludes: “It’s all about showing consideration, patience and tolerance. We all make mistakes from time to time.
“Remember also that some drivers will be out there looking for argument and conflict. They may take pleasure as a situation escalates – but no one has control over how it will finish, and that’s what makes any involvement potentially so dangerous.”