Has anyone noticed that drivers seem to lose their tempers more readily – and more virulently – these days? That the levels of intolerance have escalated beyond those previously seen?
I experienced this firsthand in Melbourne recently when my car decided to stop dead on one side of a busy intersection in early afternoon peak-hour traffic, blocking one lane. Never mind that my hazard lights were flashing and the bonnet open to indicate my plight. The stream of abuse directed my way from passing drivers was unnerving.
Even the roadside assist responder at the other end of my attempted rescue call was taken aback on hearing the passersby, asking if I needed the police in attendance. “Not unless someone gets out with a baseball bat,” I quipped, referencing the 1993 film Falling Down in which an increasingly unhinged Michael Douglas weaponises the wooden club in response to various societal irritants.
What is it about otherwise ordinary people that makes them behave in ways behind the wheels of their cars that they wouldn’t dream of if they were walking among general population?Editor
In my case, most of the worst abuse spewed from drivers of the most expensive cars. The kindest, most helpful people were seemingly regular folk, probably more used to life’s struggles therefore cognisant of how much the situation sucked and preferring not to make matters worse.
What is it about otherwise ordinary people that makes them behave in ways behind the wheels of their cars that they wouldn’t dream of if they were walking among general population? Does being in the confines of their vehicle somehow awaken their deepest, darkest selves, provoking otherwise uncharacteristic, borderline psychotic behaviour within the protection of some sort of personal armour?
Is this new level of madness another nasty side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic? And, if so, will things ever settle down again?
Time will tell.
In the meantime, the results of research released this week highlight that Australian drivers are certainly more about themselves than anyone else. Further, the 2022 Road Safety Report suggests a disturbing overconfidence in Australians’ driving ability coupled with complacency around safe driving – surely a recipe for disaster.
Just 1 per cent of Australians identify themselves as “below average” drivers compared to other road users when it comes to their concern for road safety. And 74 per cent of them believe other motorists are the biggest threat to their safety, according to the report from JAX Tyres and Auto.
More than half of Australian’s (54 per cent) say they place most importance on their own safety when driving, with the person in the passenger seat second (Sorry, dear …). Other drivers’ safety is of concern to only 11 per cent of drivers.
Men’s confidence in their own driving ability is significantly higher than women’s, with 88 per cent of men saying they feel safest while driving, compared to just 80 per cent of women. Safety concerns vary between the sexes, too, with 78 per cent of women drivers rating safety as the most important thing to them, compared to just 68 per cent of men.
The report reveals the attitudes and behaviours of Australian drivers, many of whom quickly lose interest in their vehicle’s safety and maintenance over time. One in five (21 per cent) people say they don’t perform any basic checks between scheduled services, and almost the same number (19 per cent) say they don’t perform any checks before embarking on the sorts of long drives many people are planning this school holidays.
JAX Tyres & Auto CEO Steve Grossrieder says Covid has undoubtedly had an impact on Australia’s roads.
“The 2022 JAX Tyres & Auto Road Safety report reinforces the need to look out for each other, as well as ourselves, when we’re behind the wheel,” Grossrieder says. “[It] also [reminds] us that it’s not enough to think we’re safety conscious. We have to put that into practice every time we get behind the wheel, whether that’s making sure your vehicle is in the best condition it can be or doing your best to help other road users reach their destinations safety.”
Back at my own encounter with breakdown fury, the police did in fact turn up, though not to help me. They were responding, instead, to a complaint about my being illegally parked. Lovely. They were sympathetic, even apologetic, however, and at least the stream of vitriol quietened while they were in attendance.
When the Audi Roadside Assist gentleman arrived a short time later, he confirmed that road rage had topped out in Melbourne since we’d emerged from our extended Covid-induced lockdowns.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 15 years on the job,” he said. “People are just going nuts.” Again, that doesn’t bode well.
So, whatever the “new normal” ends up looking like on our roads in future, let’s hope it involves drivers displaying greater levels of kindness, consideration, and a willingness to just give other motorists a break.
And be safe, everybody.