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Our mutual hate a recipe for a tragedy

20.02.2014

February is supposed to be the month of love, but it seems South African motorists are an angry bunch as road rage continues to escalate.

Two weeks ago, a motorcyclist was gunned down while travelling to work. I’m sure many of us agree it was a pointless and senseless death that has not only destroyed the biker’s family by robbing them of a husband and father, but also ruined the life of the man responsible for pulling the trigger and his family, all because of impatience.

Most of us spend vast amounts of our mornings and afternoons chugging along in peak-hour traffic and I’ll be the first to admit I get enraged when a taxi or car pulls in front of me while they’ve been driving in the yellow lane for the last three kilometres. I’ve often pondered what makes them more special than the hundreds of other motorists that need to wait their turn in traffic.

As a motorcyclist, I used to commute to work every day on my two-wheeled machine, come rain or shine. Admittedly it wasn’t my first choice of transportation, purely because of the dangers associated with riding. While it’s easy to cut your travelling time in half by commuting on a motorcycle - not to mention the fuel and operating costs you save - sometimes it’s just not worth the risk.

Angry and frustrated car dwellers aren’t particularly fond of having anyone pass them on the road when they’re not moving. This is why they get so annoyed when you whizz past them on your motorcycle and often cut you off or block your path.

Now, the part that grinds my gears is: the people that do this ‘blocking’ will probably get more annoyed if they found themselves in traffic sitting behind a queue of bikers who are following the line of cars. So why cut them off? They are making your life easier by not being another motorist taking up an entire lane with their car. Also remember these bikers that annoy you don’t have the comfort of a radio, air con and perhaps a hot cup of coffee in traffic. Most of them ride their motorcycles during the week purely on a convenience basis. Weekends are a different story, where it becomes all about fun, the joy of riding and the freedom that comes with it.

You can imagine my horror when I heard the news that a fellow motoring journalist wanted to “kill a biker” after the aforementioned incident on Valentine’s Day. These comments were stupid and uncalled for and has resulted in him being sacked by his current employer, but I feel the results may be everlasting as many motorcyclists fear they now have targets on their backs.

I’m still dumbfounded as to why this person would make such an insensitive comment after knowing that a family has just lost a loved one. Even more worrying is the fact that he should know the power he has as a writer and the chilling statistics of road deaths in South Africa.

He has since gone on to apologise and pledged to give his time to biker events, but truthfully, I’m not sure I would want to share a stage or event with a person with such agendas. Most of us share the same wants and needs: to get to work safely, do our jobs and return home to our loved ones. We don’t want to harm one another because we all share a common purpose.

That’s why speaking to friends and family about the comments made, many feel his apology was insincere and “he did it because he had to.” A shame really, but it takes incidents like this to bring into perspective how bad the repercussions can be for acting without thinking.

As motorists, it’s time we take a serious look at our on-the-road behaviour and the common courtesy that seems to be lacking between fellow South Africans. 
It quite simply begins with obeying the rules of the road and showing respect for one another. Some will be better drivers than others, but then it’s the responsibility of both to be understanding. And if you want to rather cruise on the freeway below the legal speed limit, do so in the slower lanes. Don’t be a road hog. And for those bikers who do split lanes, it is also your responsibility to make sure you are seen instead of smashing mirrors off motor cars because the guy in front of you didn’t see you. Rather hoot or just be patient.

It’s easy to preach but I know when I find myself in similar situations, I’m often left pondering whether we’re moving forward as the human race or declining into utter mayhem as the fool in front of me yaps on his cell phone, oblivious to the fact that I’m behind or even next to him on my motorbike and one error from either of us will leave me feeling very sore.

It’s still so early in the year and the high incidents of road-rage reports are a concern. I just hope we have all learned from this sad incident and that it has taught us patience.

We want to know about your road-rage experiences. E-mail us at editor@autodealer.co.za

Article written by Stuart Moir
20.02.2014
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