Anatomy of a Road Rage

It has been a long time since I faced real danger; a threat to my physical well-being.

This blog post is tagged with:

Road-rage Policing

The last time was when I was a police officer, engaged on plain clothes duties, when I was attacked by the man I was arresting.

That event led to a very painful injury and a subsequent early retirement from the Police Service.

Memories on that and indeed other dangerous events revisited me today when I became a recipient of rage from an extremely angry young motorist.

Without going into the minutae of the index event, I was navigating a traffic island near to me, as I have done for many years, when quite suddenly, a car and its driver was under-taking me at speed, as we were leaving the island. Now I had been trained as a police driver many years ago, to a very high standard and recognised a long time ago, that this particular traffic island requires drivers to observe both lane discipline and a reasonably low speed to navigate its many multi-entrances-exits and hazards.

In today’s incident, it was clear that lane discipline had been observed, given that the young driver was speeding to my left with ample space and he clearly felt compelled to sound his horn whilst shouting obscenities at us.

My reaction was one of puzzlement but as is my want in difficult road situations, the best thing to do is not to respond in kind, but to simply acknowledge their presence and smile and allow them to pass.

Indeed the driver did pass but then his driving became erratic. Driving forward, then levelling with us, shouting and waving his arms around. He then decided to drive in front of us, came to a sudden halt, obviously wanting to directly remonstrate with me. I took evasive action and carried on driving.

Not deterred, this driver then ‘persued’ his prey, weaving in and out of traffic until he positioned himself in front of me on a traffic island. 

It was clear that he was out of control and so I stopped in the middle of the traffic island and watched as he got out of his vehicle, clearly wanting a close physical encounter.

The traffic started to move and he got back in his car and started to drive away; I decided to take a different turn on the island in order to break my contact with this man.

I drove us into a safe area, turned around and was about to rejoin the route I intended to take when suddenly, this driver in his car, performed a U-turn at nearby traffic lights and started to pursue us again; continuing to shout and remonstrate.

As we rejoined the main route he drew level with our car, shouting obscenities and spat twice at our car. He made physical threats. He was told that the police would be contacted; he laughed and encouraged that we did so. I maintained equal levelling with his vehicle to prevent him suddenly driving in front of my car and stopping.

At this point he appeared to calm down and sped away at high speed, weaving between cars.

When we reached the next set of traffic lights, we sat a couple of cars behind him but I noticed that he was again looking at us and started to shout in his car again. As the traffic started to move, he nearly collided with the car on his left but he had to travel straight-on; I chose to turn left and remove myself from the area I needed to be in again.

I decided that I should go and make a report to the local police, but I was told that they would do nothing about this type of incident, partly because of the ‘it’s your word against his’ mantra, the other apparently being due to government cuts to policing; perhaps any lack of action is due to a pressured CPS?

This was a frightening scenario which I can assure readers did not arise from any error on my part; was I fearful; no? I was certainly concerned; concerned for our safety, other road users safety; concerned for the mental state of this particular driver.

What concerns me is how other drivers might have reacted? If they were older, would they suddenly be overcome with the stress of the situation, but, what if the other driver was a younger person, would we be reading about an altercation and its consequences in the press?

It also raises the question about how we as a society view or react to these incidents? Have we become so immune or accepting of the limitations on our investigating authorities, that we are now prepared to simply accept that this level of behaviour is now normal; where does such acceptance end?

On a quiet Sunday afternoon it seems that this ‘new normal’ is indeed acceptable, or is it?

I hope that this young man has now calmed down. I wish him no ill, but from what I witnessed today, he needs help. I have his photo and that of his car and some video; perhaps as a concerned citizen, my story could be the route by which investigating authorities can prove the public perception wrong on such matters and that no other person has to ever experience the pure uncontrolled rage of this human being?