It is the typical week day that starts with the usual school run with my 7 year old daughter only that today we are about 15 minutes late than our usual time. We take our usual route only that this time round there a ‘snake’ of cars ahead, bumper to bumper.
As we move along at a very slow pace, cars are now speedily driving past us and creating a second lane. This then blocks on-coming traffic on the opposite lane, we are now stuck…. No movement at all. Some road users are ticked off and unpleasant words are exchanged in the morning and you pray that your little one has not heard and quickly roll up the glass to keep out the bad words. So why this road rage in the morning?
Sally Davies, a clinical psychologist describes road rage ‘as a social problem on the increase in the world’. This is attributed to traffic congestion and increased levels of frustration on roads.
The above is very evident here as there has been an exponential growth of bodaboda and taxi drivers in Kampala alone making driving in the city especially during the rush hours such a menace.
Sally Davies goes on to say that ‘road rage occurs when people who are already vulnerable to aggressive outbursts are led to express their rage and more critically direct it towards total strangers’. From behind the wheel, it is so easy to personalize relationships on the road. We find ourselves in a position of power and safety, free to insult other drivers verbally, make moves that restrict or obstruct them, make aggressive gestures with hands, flash our lights, sound our horns, or otherwise act out fantasies of being “in charge” – as if we had been appointed “Road Monitor”!
This description resonates with that morning episode I talked about earlier. These are the social problems amidst us and we need to arise as concerned citizens and begin to do something, we cannot continue to wait on the Government to address such issues. Probably as one reaches one we will begin to experience the multiplier effect and eventually see and experience the change we so desperately need to be demonstrated on our roads not so much for us but for the younger generation – the road users of tomorrow.
So how can we avert road rage?
Always remain calm and don’t take other drivers actions personally. When encountering another motorist’s bad driving and/or seemingly arrogant attitude, remember that it probably has nothing to do with you. Be defensive first and never put your life and vehicle in harms’ way.
We all need to be firm in obeying the rules, maintaining our lane and sticking to our rights, but also be flexible and prepared to step back if you see that the situation is about to escalate. If we can let’s report the bad drivers to the authorities especially if the misbehaving driver is driving a company car and telephone numbers are provided to report such occurrences.
If you are the type of person who allows just enough time to drive to an appointment, you might be more prone to temper and speeding. Please plan properly by adding at least another 10 minutes to your expected journey time and leave on time. This will allow you to better negotiate traffic or other unexpected delays, without worrying about being late and will make you calmer driver overall.
Traffic congestion is a given these days so better still plan on how to best use that time; you can use the time to listen to an audio book of that novel you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or better still connecting with God by listening to your audio bible; or if you have children, this is the time to connect with them through stories and passing culture from one generation the next. Anyway, be creative on how to make use of the time spent in traffic so it does not come off as all wasted time.
As motorists we all have a responsibility and numerous opportunities to cool the emotional temperature on the roads. Every small act of road courtesy, of giving way, a smile or gracious ‘thank you’ wave, making positive eye contact before you join a line, contributes to harmony.
We owe it to ourselves and other road users to be better drivers, to pro-actively manage our time and the factors that lead to road rage better and to control our emotions and reactions to our own stress, as well as to other people’s outbursts.
Let us all be vigilant in improving the driving experience on the roads in Kampala and Uganda as a whole!