Killers on the highway

Road rage! Just the sound of it is scary. The thought of someone with a short temper, operating a huge metal monster that weighs a couple of thousand pounds is enough to quicken the pulse. A ton of iron and steel, hurtling along the roadway at sixty miles per hour, weaving in and out of lanes, is a mere fraction of a second from a tragedy.

Thank God that most people are mature enough to handle the awesome responsibility they assume every time they put that battering ram in motion. On the other hand, there are some people who see their car as a powerful weapon against anyone who would dare intrude on their space. You know the type. You signaled before you moved into his lane and did so with plenty of distance between his and your car. Suddenly, he begins to blink his headlights and approach your rear bumper. A glance in your rearview mirror at the fist waving gargoyle two feet from your license plate makes you wonder if you had just stolen his wife, burned down his house, and purloined his wallet. Also, you feel certain that the digital salute he's giving you is not his way of saying you're number one on his hit parade.

When I see someone behaving like that, I have two emotions. One is fear, because I can never be sure how far a psycho will go to vent his rage. Two is sadness, because that fulminating madman behind me is probably going through his own personal hell, and feels the need to take it out on someone. My innocuous lane change, coupled with his sense of power at the helm of his impenetrable moving fortress, gave him the excuse he needed.

Men are typically the most abusive when it comes to being territorial on the road, but women are also capable of temporary insanity. One fine morning, while driving on a major thoroughfare, I observed a car, driven by a man, cutting across two lanes to take a position in front of a large sedan driven by a woman in the left lane. As a result of his speedy, unanticipated move, she was forced to modestly apply her brakes in order to keep from colliding with his bumper. You would have thought he had just kidnapped her children and was trying to flee the country with them. Smoke belched out of her tailpipe as a C-note worth of rubber painted the asphalt with long black lines.

Watching from a few car lengths behind, I observed a maniacal demonstration of pent up ferocity that had found an outlet. Seconds later, she caught up with the offending vehicle and leaned on her horn while yelling something from her open window. It might have ended with her raucous tirade if the guy had accepted his role in the melodrama and defused it with an apology. Instead, he decided to use that vulgar symbol in the middle of his hand.

Now, the woman's rage became a blood lust. She pulled ahead of him by a few feet and quickly veered into his lane, almost forcing him to hit the divider. His tail lights glowed ominously as his brakes locked and the car skidded, dragging its rear wheels and sashaying from side to side along the highway.

Having exacted her revenge, the woman applied the gas and was soon out of sight. One can only imagine the potential for carnage in that asinine scenario. Suppose the car had gone over the divider into the oncoming traffic? How many lives might have been lost because of a simple traffic maneuver that was blown out of proportion?

We need to keep in mind that psychological testing is not a prerequisite for a driver's license. Therefore, you may be sailing along the street, a few feet away from a nut job; a nut job driving a metallic mammoth, capable of doing more damage than any six-shooter in the hands of a lunatic. Why antagonize him/her? Would you shout an obscenity at a person waving a cocked gun? My guess is, you'd probably enlist all the diplomatic skills you could muster in an attempt to save your life. A tactful response to a time bomb driving a tank could have the same result.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.
Road rage! Just the sound of it is scary. The thought of someone with a short temper, operating a huge metal monster that weighs a couple of thousand pounds is enough to quicken the pulse. A ton of iron and steel, hurtling along the roadway at sixty miles per hour, weaving in and out of lanes, is a mere fraction of a second from a tragedy.

Thank God that most people are mature enough to handle the awesome responsibility they assume every time they put that battering ram in motion. On the other hand, there are some people who see their car as a powerful weapon against anyone who would dare intrude on their space. You know the type. You signaled before you moved into his lane and did so with plenty of distance between his and your car. Suddenly, he begins to blink his headlights and approach your rear bumper. A glance in your rearview mirror at the fist waving gargoyle two feet from your license plate makes you wonder if you had just stolen his wife, burned down his house, and purloined his wallet. Also, you feel certain that the digital salute he's giving you is not his way of saying you're number one on his hit parade.

When I see someone behaving like that, I have two emotions. One is fear, because I can never be sure how far a psycho will go to vent his rage. Two is sadness, because that fulminating madman behind me is probably going through his own personal hell, and feels the need to take it out on someone. My innocuous lane change, coupled with his sense of power at the helm of his impenetrable moving fortress, gave him the excuse he needed.

Men are typically the most abusive when it comes to being territorial on the road, but women are also capable of temporary insanity. One fine morning, while driving on a major thoroughfare, I observed a car, driven by a man, cutting across two lanes to take a position in front of a large sedan driven by a woman in the left lane. As a result of his speedy, unanticipated move, she was forced to modestly apply her brakes in order to keep from colliding with his bumper. You would have thought he had just kidnapped her children and was trying to flee the country with them. Smoke belched out of her tailpipe as a C-note worth of rubber painted the asphalt with long black lines.

Watching from a few car lengths behind, I observed a maniacal demonstration of pent up ferocity that had found an outlet. Seconds later, she caught up with the offending vehicle and leaned on her horn while yelling something from her open window. It might have ended with her raucous tirade if the guy had accepted his role in the melodrama and defused it with an apology. Instead, he decided to use that vulgar symbol in the middle of his hand.

Now, the woman's rage became a blood lust. She pulled ahead of him by a few feet and quickly veered into his lane, almost forcing him to hit the divider. His tail lights glowed ominously as his brakes locked and the car skidded, dragging its rear wheels and sashaying from side to side along the highway.

Having exacted her revenge, the woman applied the gas and was soon out of sight. One can only imagine the potential for carnage in that asinine scenario. Suppose the car had gone over the divider into the oncoming traffic? How many lives might have been lost because of a simple traffic maneuver that was blown out of proportion?

We need to keep in mind that psychological testing is not a prerequisite for a driver's license. Therefore, you may be sailing along the street, a few feet away from a nut job; a nut job driving a metallic mammoth, capable of doing more damage than any six-shooter in the hands of a lunatic. Why antagonize him/her? Would you shout an obscenity at a person waving a cocked gun? My guess is, you'd probably enlist all the diplomatic skills you could muster in an attempt to save your life. A tactful response to a time bomb driving a tank could have the same result.

Bob Weir is a former detective sergeant in the New York City Police Department. He is the excutive editor of The News Connection in Highland Village, Texas. Email Bob.