How to avoid hostile drivers and survive road rage

A traffic jam. Have respect for smaller cars, they have a right to be on the road too. Photo/FILE
A traffic jam. Have respect for smaller cars, they have a right to be on the road too. Photo/FILE 

It was a typical TGIFG (Thank God its Friday) evening and I was driving home early in Nairobi’s dense traffic.

As I approached another clogged up intersection I came to a standstill as motorists blocked the road ahead.

Before I could sit back and enjoy the music playing on the CD, I received a call and before I could answer it a motorist behind me started hooting.

I rolled down my car window to look back at what was causing the commotion.

Apparently, the driver thought I was blocking his way and wanted me to somehow cruise through the heavy traffic.

With the wave of my hand I suggested how he could make it across to the other side, by flying over my car.

The idea did not go down well with him and he rushed out of his car fuming through the ears.

Shortly, he was breathing through my open window and threatening to beat me up for the suggestion that he could fly. I rolled up the window.

I ignored his ranting and at that point the road ahead opened up. I decided to drive to a crowded place and find out what had made him so annoyed.

When I finally stopped, he rushed to the window demanding that I explain my actions.

He accused me of blocking the road and gesturing rudely to him. He was clearly a wounded man.

I apologised profusely to defuse the anger that was about to explode into a nasty incident.

He cooled down and the matter ended well. How should you react in the face of road rage?

It is important to be aware that not everyone has had a good day or is enjoying life.

There is so much stress today that people are literary time-bombs waiting to explode at the slightest provocation.

Unrelated to traffic

Road rage is sometimes caused by factors unrelated to traffic. It could be stress from home or work.

And don’t assume that it has everything to do with you. You could as well be at the wrong place at the wrong time — a trigger for the driver to release the stress that has been eating them up.

Never assume that you are the bravest driver in town. You could be proved wrong with fatal results — an enraged driver can use his car to run over you.

That said, you should be quick to identify how and when road rage happens.

More importantly, you must know what to do and how to avoid making matters worse.

Here are a few tips on how to salvage a bad situation:

Blocking lanes: Do not drive slowly on the high-speed right side.

Tailgating: Do not drive too close to the car ahead. Signals: Use your signals to warn other drivers of your intentions to change lanes. Hand gestures: Use only recognised hand signals. Anything else could get you hurt.

Aggressive tactics

Hooting: This is meant to alert others and not to harass.

U-turns: Avoid it if you can for the manoeuvre takes other road users by surprise.

Park your car properly, in the space assigned.

The next driver may not be able to access their car and this is irritating.

Aggressive tactics: That your car is bigger or has a loud exhaust does not matter, drive with decorum.

If the other driver is in a hurry, give way even if you have the right of way.

Leave for your destination early to give you time for unforeseen delays.

Have in-car entertainment such as a radio or CD player that calms you down in traffic.

Avoid talk shows that may irritate or annoy you. Avoid arguing with your passenger, this makes you a risk to other road users.

Ensure your car is in good working order, anxiety regarding breakdowns causes tension. Have respect for smaller cars, they have a right to be on the road too.

In the event that a raging lunatic approaches you: Stay cool even if the other driver hoots and flashes lights at you.

Stay in the car with your window closed and do not give the aggressor the chance to attack you.

Do not argue, accept and apologise for any accusations even if you are not at fault.

Do not stare your aggressor in the eye, and call the police if it gets out of hand.

Or call a friend who is in the vicinity.

If he attacks you, abandon your car and flee into the nearest building screaming for your life.