Dealing with Road Rage Encounters

    JN Group

    Road rage is often a terrifying experience for victims when they find themselves thrust into a sudden and unpredictable confrontation fuelled by intense aggression from another motorist.  A routine drive can quickly escalate into a harrowing ordeal, leaving individuals at risk of injuries, intentional damage to property, and in extreme causes, even loss of life.

    This common phenomenon unfolds daily on Jamaican thoroughfares, endangering the safety and well-being of all road users.

    The experience of road rage is fresh in the mind of a Spanish Town resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In April, he encountered a hostile driver after he got distracted while driving and rear-ended the motorist’s vehicle, resulting in the light becoming damaged.

    “He came out and immediately went into a rage and told me a string of profanities,” he said, adding that the motorist initially refused to share his vehicle documents.

    He pointed out that throughout the horrific ordeal, he remained calm, which he believes eventually changed the outcome of the situation.

    “When he saw that I wasn’t carrying on, at the end of it, when we were about to leave, he said to me, ‘Can I shake your hand?’ I said sure, and we shook hands. He told me to be safe on the road and I told him likewise.”

    Following the accident, the motorist reached out to three auto parts suppliers to help the at-fault driver locate parts to repair his vehicle.

    “To this day, we remain in contact.  I send him scriptures and he responds positively.”

    Statistics on road rage incidents in Jamaica are not available. However, 2019 traffic safety data provided by the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation found that, “nearly 80 per cent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous 30 days.”

    Yelling, cursing, excessive honking, and the use of profane language and gestures are often directed at the targeted motorist, cyclist or pedestrian to offend and intimidate.  In extreme cases, road rage can escalate into an assault.

    Lynford Reece, Senior Manager – Distribution and Marketing, JN General Insurance, and road safety advocate, said that aggressive behaviour while driving creates a road safety issue.

    “Road rage affects your judgment and composure. It can also lead to risky driving behaviours such as tailgating, forcing a motorist off the road, impeding traffic flow, and speeding.  Furthermore, it can result in a retaliatory action that puts other road users in harm’s way,” Mr. Reece explained.

    “Understandably, road rage is a cause for concern for insurers because it can escalate beyond a heated argument, resulting in a crash, damage to property, injury or death of persons. If a claim is made following a crash, it will affect the insurance premium. Furthermore, the police may charge the perpetrator of the road rage for careless or reckless driving.”

    Victor Anderson, Programme Coordinator, National Road Safety Council, pointed out that there are many triggers of road rage, but anger is the most common cause.

    “A driver becomes irate because another driver does something that is viewed as disrespectful and responds in an aggressive manner. Road rage is an unfortunate occurrence that can become deadly; therefore, avoid all conflicts, even if you are right,” Mr Anderson advised.

    He outlined the following guidelines on how to handle a confrontation with an aggressive driver:

    • Apologise if the incident was your fault. You can do so by raising your hand.  Even if you were not at fault, still try not to add fuel to the argument by defending yourself.
    • Don’t retaliate. Avoid making a bad situation worse.  Keep as calm as possible. Endeavour to be the peacemaker by not responding to rude gestures and comments.  This is one of the quickest and most effective ways to defuse a confrontation.
    • Don’t make eye contact.  This will help to quickly reduce your tension and that of the aggressor.
    • Keep your doors locked and your windows up. Also, don’t get out of the vehicle if you feel threatened. Call the police if necessary.
    • Don’t underestimate the other driver’s potential for aggression. As you do not know what could trigger further violence, try not to say anything.
      In the event of a crash, the law requires that you exchange information with the other driver and then report the matter to the police and your insurance company.  However, if you feel that your safety is threatened, record the registration number of the other vehicle and go directly to the nearest police station and make a report.  That report should also be followed with a report to your insurance company.  Your life is not worth the risk of engaging in a confrontation with another driver.

    “By simply pledging to show courtesy and consideration for other road users, you can significantly help to reduce incidents of road rage, thus making our roads safer.  Keeping one’s cool can defuse aggression,” Mr Anderson maintained.

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