ROAD RAGE

GQ (Australia) - - MOTOR -

FROM RUDE GES­TURES AND EX­PLE­TIVES TO FULL-ON AS­SAULTS, THIS IS THE TRUTH BE­HIND THE DARK SIDE OF AUS­TRALIAN DRIV­ING.

MIt should come as no sur­prise that the prac­tice of as­sault­ing, or even killing, mo­torists who dare an­noy oth­ers – whether by ac­ci­dent or evil in­tent – was in­vented in Amer­ica. Back in 1988, a Los An­ge­les TV news show coined the term ‘road rage’ af­ter a spate of shoot­ings on its frus­trat­ing and of­ten stand­still free­ways. At the time, Aus­tralia’s big cities didn’t have traffc any­thing like what Amer­i­cans were en­dur­ing, but there seems to be a di­rect and log­i­cal link be­tween com­mut­ing times and road-rage rates, be­cause one leads to the kind of im­po­tent, broil­ing anger that begets the other. To­day, the av­er­age com­mute in Syd­ney is 34 min­utes; not far off the global av­er­age of 38 min­utes. And our rage is ris­ing. A 2011 sur­vey of Aus­tralians by in­surer GIO found 85 per cent of us be­lieve driv­ers are now more ag­gres­sive than ever (with Bris­bane mo­torists rated the worst – in­deed, 95 per cent of road users in the Queens­land cap­i­tal claimed to have been on the re­ceiv­ing end of road rage – and Syd­ney’s the calmest). Al­most a quar­ter of all driv­ers na­tion­wide said they had been fol­lowed by an an­gry idiot, 10 per cent had been forced off the road dur­ing a rage in­ci­dent, 5.9 per cent had suf­fered dam­age to their car by another driver and 2.2 per cent were phys­i­cally as­saulted (thank good­ness for cen­tral lock­ing, or else this would be higher). While 86 per cent of road users sug­gested con­ges­tion was the ma­jor cause of road rage, the sur­pris­ing fact is that in­ci­dents are al­most as com­mon out­side our clogged cap­i­tal cities. What few of us fel­las (for road rage is pre­dom­i­nantly a male thing) like to ad­mit is that we’ve all had feel­ings of rage on the road – yet what dif­fers is our re­sponse. Swear­ing pro­fusely about the IQ lev­els and parent­age of peo­ple shar­ing the road is an ac­cept­able form of vent­ing, while tail­gat­ing and the per­plex­ing prac­tice of braketest­ing peo­ple are not. How­ever, crit­i­cal think­ing goes out the win­dow when in the grip of road rage, or so it seems. Western Aus­tralia Po­lice As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Nick An­ti­cich, who be­lieves driver be­hav­iour in his state is now the worst he has seen in 30 years, says de­lib­er­ately brak­ing in front of another ve­hi­cle was one of the most com­mon in­ci­dents re­ported out of 2648 road-rage com­plaints re­ceived in 2013-14. “Peo­ple seem to have a dif­fer­ent set of val­ues when they are in a car,” says An­ti­cich. He ex­plains that it’s not just hot­headed types who de­scend into Ter­mi­na­tor-wor­thy tac­tics on the road. “It’s these other peo­ple, nor­mal peo­ple, who seem to en­gage in of­ten un­char­ac­ter­is­tic be­hav­iours: anger, ha­tred, big­otry.” In short, driv­ing a car turns us into mon­sters. An­ti­cich feels be­ing in charge of a ve­hi­cle de­hu­man­ises peo­ple, and he blames the rel­a­tive lux­ury of mod­ern cars. “Back when I was young, you were lucky if you had a ra­dio in your car, and more times than not, you didn’t have air con­di­tion­ing so your win­dow was down – you were en­gaged with the com­mu­nity around you,” he says. “Nowa­days, it’s air con, win­dows up, you have a bunch of giz­mos – mu­sic and other things blar­ing; it’s al­most as if you’re locked into a mi­cro­cosm of the ve­hi­cle, dis­con­nected from the world around you.” The bad news is that things can only get worse. In 2010, a global Com­muter Pain In­dex (CPI) was com­piled through re­search by IBM, which recorded the emo­tional and eco­nomic toll on-road stress has on com­muters around the world. On a scale of one to 100, Syd­ney recorded the high­est CPI score of 40, ahead of Bris­bane (34) and Mel­bourne (32). Bei­jing and Mexico City both scored 99, and Johannesburg – where road rage of­ten ends in shoot­ing – 97. Just lucky we’re still morally su­pe­rior when it comes to the num­ber of cars on our roads with guns in the glove­box. n

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