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(Brian Gable/Brian Gable/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
(Brian Gable/Brian Gable/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Road Sage

Go ahead, honk! It's all the rage Add to ...

The other day I'm turning right and two women begin to cross the street. So, like the law and basic morality dictate, I wait for them to finish. Seems reasonable? What does the "man" in the car behind me do? He presses his paw on his horn and lets it bray. Apparently he's angry because I won't roll over a couple of people and get out of his way. Who knows, maybe he's worried that if I don't run down innocent pedestrians he won't have enough time to rent some porn and get to the liquor store before it closes.

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It would be nice to dismiss this incident as a one-off but this kind of impatience is growing more and more frequent. Let's call it Road Rage 2.0, a new strain of driver-induced psychosis in which unhinged motorists freak out on other drivers whose only offence is obeying the law. They tailgate, headlight flash, obscene gesture make, and pathologically obstruct other drivers who do the right thing.

Say what you will about old school road rage. (Some maintain that road rage causes people to do violent acts they would never otherwise commit. I disagree. People who do road rage are sub-moronic cretins who were just looking for a chance to vent the frustration and despair caused by their wretched lives out on another human being.) But at least these exercises in utter futility, though mean and pointless, had a small shred of logic attached to them. One driver did something wrong (for example, an illegal lane change) and the other driver freaked out a la Michael Douglas in Falling Down .

Road Rage 2.0 removes the hassle of actually having a reason (however stupid).

Are you driving 40 in a 40 km/h residential zone? If so, there's sure to be someone bird-dogging you. Look in your rear-view and you'll see him (or her) gesticulating madly, outraged that you won't use the road as your own personal F1 lane. Are you stopped at a red light? Don't worry, one second after it changes the guy behind will be honking and screaming. Are you making a legal right-hand turn? How dare you! You just added two seconds to someone's commute.

This antagonism is not restricted to other drivers. One of the most peculiar phenomenoms on the road today is the pedestrian who gives you a dirty look because you didn't run him over. You're turning left and the ground jockey is crossing. So, you stop courteously and wait. Then the guy riding the shoe-lace express throws a look that says: "What do you think you're doing?"

What can you say?

"Not running you over. Sorry."

There is no Road Rage 2.0 corollary in "real life." When was the last time someone behind you in line at the drug store yelled at you for not shoplifting?

Road rage purists can take heart. It is still the most prevalent form of motorized stupidity. A recent Automobile Association of America survey revealed that 90 per cent of drivers have suffered through a road rage incident. Sixty per cent confessed to losing their cool behind the wheel. One per cent of drivers say they've been physically assaulted by another driver.

But enjoy it while it lasts. Road Rage 2.0 seems poised to make that style of retaliation-triggered madness passé. Why try and hit someone who cut you off? That's so 2006. It reeks of Coldplay, flavoured martinis, Lost and George Bush the Younger. With Road Rage 2.0 you can flip out on other drivers for merely doing what they're supposed to do. It will only get worse. By 2050 it will probably be legal to key someone's car on Sunday night for something they may do Monday morning.

This Just In: Europeans Not Expert in Winter Driving

Newspapers across Canada recently trumpeted the news that most motorists do not adequately clean the snow off their cars. A survey of 4,000 drivers, conducted by Continental Tyres, showed that one in three drivers do not fully de-ice and clean their windshields before embarking on their journeys. A few Canadians were interviewed to discuss the crisis and the Canadian Automobile Association was called upon to give good quote.

Trouble is: it was a survey of 4,000 European drivers. Now, Europeans are good at a lot of things: wine, cheese, starting world wars, but dealing with snow ain't one of them. I don't count the Swiss, Northern Italians or anyone from Sweden, Denmark, etc. England is England. I don't count Russia since it is not part of Europe; Europe is a part of Russia.

Look, I'm all for using obscure surveys to spin out a story. Mobile igloos are a real problem but there are currently no Canadian stats on it. Before we start the "Stop the Mobile Igloo" ribbon campaign let's get a few pertinent facts in (even American ones; they're just like our stats only louder). In the meantime, let's keep our depressing driving surveys Canadian!

Follow on Twitter: @aclarkcomedy

 

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