Relatively carefree (except for winter weather) driving is one of the great advantages of living in Vermont. We are usually spared the nasty behavior of drivers who exhibit signs of aggression and road rage. But then we take a trip to Boston, New York or Cape Cod and we are reminded that not all drivers are rational human beings when they get behind the wheel.
There are organizations that keep track of aggressive driving and road rage incidents. According to the American Safety Council, "The term Road Rage was coined by local news station KTLA in Los Angeles after a string of shootings occurred on several freeways in the city. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines road rage as when a driver "commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle." The NHTSA makes a clear distinction between road rage and aggressive driving, where the former is a criminal charge and the latter a traffic offense.
Aggressive driving is considered a traffic offense and can include tailgating, honking, yelling at another driver and making obscene gestures. In a July publication by AAA it was noted that, "Nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, according to a new study released today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The most alarming findings suggest that approximately eight million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme examples of road rage, including purposefully ramming another vehicle or getting out of the car to confront another driver."
There are hard numbers to back up claims that drivers are becoming more aggressive and my experience over the past few years supports the numbers. I expect drivers to be aggressive in Boston, and in that city there is a difference between aggressive driving and bad behavior. Once you understand that the rules demand a degree of aggression in a city then you can still maintain a degree of civility within those bounds. It's not personal, that's just the way it is.
Then there is Cape Cod. The cape is a hotbed of hotheads. One might think that in the summer most of the drivers on the cape, who are on vacation, should be relaxed and at least a little bit polite. But that is not always the case.
Cape roads are crowded in the summer and unless a driver is completely brain dead they should expect to move slowly and they should understand the nature of travel in a crowded place with small roads. But too many drivers on the cape tailgate and even become nasty when you don't move fast enough when the light changes to green.
What's the hurry? Dunkin Donuts isn't closing anytime soon and when you get there you are going to have to wait in line anyway. If a person wants to move as fast as they want when they want then the cape is not the place for them.
Drivers on the cape have a chance to slow down and take what life gives them. It could be a great lesson in acceptance and I suspect many people get into that mode, but the few idiots who bring all of their baggage with them on vacation continue to beep and flash their lights when you do not get out of their way.
When drivers are cited by police for aggressive driving or road rage their punishment should be to put them in the line of traffic driving out of the cape over the Bourne Bridge every Sunday afternoon in the summer. If they beep their horn or display any signs of aggression their car would be wired to give them an electric shock coming from their seat. If that fails to calm them down more aggressive treatment might be required.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.