The deadly behavioural problem of road rage

Monday, 22 May 2023 | Dr BKS Sanjay & Dr Gaurav Sanjay



The topic of road rage has become a matter of concern from both the social and political points of view. Road rage is defined as an uncontrolled anger of a motorist that is usually provoked by another motorist’s irritating act of driving rashly or against the driving rules and regulations which is expressed in aggressive or violent behaviour.

The recent incident involving cabinet minister Prem Chand Agarwal in which he is seen engaging in a fist fight with a man on a congested road in Rishikesh town has highlighted the issue of road rage in the State. The cases of road rage are continuing to increase with the increasing traffic congestion on the roads.

This kind of behaviour is observed all over the world but it is very prevalent in South East Asian countries including India. The incidence of road rage of cricketer turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu is well known in our country. Sidhu hit an old man’s skull with his fist in a road rage incident and the old man ultimately died. He was convicted which also resulted in the loss of his seat in the parliament. Though he was re-elected but his case was reviewed by a higher court which sent him to jail for a year. He was recently released from jail. Another case of road rage has been reported from the national capital where a man was carried on the bonnet of a car. The issue was honking from behind the vehicle of the accused while asking for space to overtake.

The extreme condition of weather, over congestion on the roads and the behaviour of the drivers are the common factors to provoke the road rage. The chances of incidence of road rage increase in early and the late hours of the day. In early hours drivers wish to reach the office or any work place in time and late at night the drivers want to reach home or destination before it’s late. In such a situation, the influence of alcohol works as “the fuel in the fire”.

In our opinion, the habit of following the traffic rules and tendency of road rage are basically developed in childhood period when they are driven by parents or by other adults.Another usual factor is when the accused thinks that other person is weaker than him in any aspect like status, gender, education, physical built, financially poor, social and political status.

Even after the implementation of Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Act 2019, the incidence of road rage has increased instead of decreasing. The Union Road Transport minister Nitin Gadkari informed Lok Sabha that the total number of road rage, rash driving cases had jumped from 1.55 lakh in 2019 to 2.15 lakh in 2021. According to him, the government authorities had issued nearly two crore challan and collected nearly Rs 2,000 crore fine from traffic violators in 2021 across the country.

In our opinion, road rage is not just due to the ignorance of the traffic rules but also due to the hostile behaviour of the drivers. We Indians are known to have aggressive behaviour as it is commonly observed that Indian people do not take pride in following the rules and regulations in general while taking pride in breaking the rules. The common observations made are- first, the drivers are not on the designated lane, second- they are habituated to crisscrossing the lane without use of indicator and try to get into every inch of empty space in the other lanes which irritates the fellow drivers and sometimes may hit and/or damage the other vehicle specially the window rear mirror in case of crisscrossing or the bumper of the other vehicle in tailgating. It often leads to incidence of shouting, yelling, abusing, fist fighting and more violence.

Anger, aggression and impatience among the commuters are manifested in increasing road rage. Teenagers are the ones especially displaying their anger and frustration openly on the road. Over bearing personality, lack of tolerance and absence of discipline in these people are the reasons for increasing road rage. In our opinion 90 per cent of road rage cases are due to driver’s behaviour and 10 per cent are due to traffic congestion and other issues which can be understood by just bringing change in our thinking. 

In a road rage incidence, it will be best if it can be ignored by any of the conflicting parties rather than becoming more aggressive or more competitive knowing very well that it may take a dangerous turn which may lead to further damage of the vehicle or even physical injuries or death of an individual. It is better if such incidences can be reported to the traffic police with video evidence through the cameras installed in the vehicles and appropriate and prompt action is taken by authorities in such cases. Often, the mindset in road rage is to settle the incident on the spot, knowing well that the authorities will take forever to bring justice to the incident.

Repeated honking, flashing of head light and crisscrossing on the road are considered as initial warning signs of road rage. Avoid confrontation during road rage situations. It is important to avoid engaging with aggressive or angry drivers. Try to distance yourself from the situation or find a way to de-escalate it. Offering an apology is the best idea and in any way avoid eye contact during road rage situations. There is a need to control this menace. Remember that if a situation is escalated instead of being controlled then road rage can be dangerous and can lead to serious consequences for all stakeholders.

Road accidents may not be considered as wilful acts but road rage is definitely a wilful and a criminal act. The incidence of road rage can be prevented by addressing the behavioural issues of the drivers which matters the most. To overcome this, people must undergo good counselling and make Yoga part of their regular routine. 

This year, the seventh edition of UN Global Road Safety Week focused on sustainable transport and in particular the need to shift to walking, cycling and use of public transport. The WHO invited all road safety and sustainable mobility partners to spread the awareness for road safety by organising events, activities, sharing messages and materials through social media platforms. 

(The authors are orthopaedic surgeons based in Dehradun. Views expressed are personal)

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