What I have noticed, as I ponder my life away behind the wheel, is that people are becoming more distracted and fidgety in their cars, particularly now that it’s getting colder.
In recent weeks, I’ve seen everything from men shaving to women applying their makeup. While this is by no means anything new, I do have a massive problem when these divas - who didn’t have the time to do their morning routines at home, like the rest of us - forget that they are, in fact, in traffic and actually forget to drive.
This self-obsession, in my opinion, is where road rage is born. Those select individuals who think they are better than the rest of us and either push in, take their time and leave horribly big gaps or just blatantly disobey the rules of the roads, create a massive backlog of stress for other road users.
We all have those select groups of people that we utterly despise in traffic, whether it’s the old granny idling along slowly in the fast lane on the highway or the taxi driver that cuts us off every morning only to stop a few metres in front of us to pick up more passengers. Then there is the motorcyclist, who is splitting lanes and travelling at frightening speeds. Heck, it might even be that young learner driver that decided to venture out for an early morning driving lesson during peak traffic times, only to find himself stalling at every intersection and causing massive chaos.
These dumbbells who give us our daily aneurysms are simply unaware or extremely self-centred. We might be the Rainbow Nation in many respects, standing together at sporting events to cheer on our favourite teams, or uniting against the e-tolls. But when it comes to traffic, it seems like hurling abuse at each other is common practice.
That very same guy you were hugging and celebrating with when Bafana Bafana scored a goal could become your worst enemy on Monday morning when he cuts you off. We’re quick to exchange the camaraderie and cheers we shared for vulgar insults and gruesome hand gestures.
I’ve always wondered why all sense of comradeship dissipates as we take to the streets in our motor vehicles. Now, I don’t want to divide this up into race or sex, but - without sounding like a male chauvinist - statistically speaking, research has revealed that women are worse drivers, particularly when it comes to directions and navigating. A lot of women admit that they only drive because they have to.
That said, before us males commence with the muscular high fiving, I feel I have to point out that men are more guilty of dangerous driving, whether it be speeding or diving through traffic. Men are just more reckless and the research highlights that it comes down to the very root of risk taking itself. From the cultural pressures of being a man to the differences in our hormones and genetic makeup, men are just more reckless than women on the road.
This has left me with a rather troubling debacle, because I’ve been contemplating whether I’d rather be stuck in traffic with a group of individuals with a horrid sense of direction, who may decide to turn at the last minute and cruise along on the highway under the speed limit, or would I rather share the road with maniacs who are trying to feed their egos and will quite possibly flash me out the fast lane for doing the speed limit.
At the end of the day, it’s neither here nor there. And truthfully, I would rather share the roads with courteous, well-mannered people who share my urge to get home quickly, but without breaking the law. I couldn’t care what age, race or gender that may be.
I’ll never forget the day I passed my learner’s. Admittedly, it was for a motorcycle, but it meant I could finally take to the streets. It represented a tiny piece of freedom - in my head, at least - because it meant I could go places without having to phone the parentals to drop me off or come and fetch me when I was done. Little did I know 10 years later that that small piece of paper, which represented my freedom, would end up being my cage.
I say that because, now as an adult, I easily spend three hours a day in my automotive cage, sharing the road with fellow caged South Africans. Maybe that’s why some of them push and shove, hoping to get to their destination a few minutes sooner.
Whatever the reason, simple compassion and understanding will help us get to where we need to be relatively stress free and with stable blood pressures too. But it starts with us and courtesy.