Don’t let pet peeves turn to road rage

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I donít condone any type of road rage ó or traffic tantrums as theyíre also called ó even if itís as slight as shaking your finger at another driver. Thereís no place for verbal insults or physical threats directed at a fellow motorist.

That said, I admit Iíve had bad thoughts about other drivers. Iíve given them a piece of my mind, so to speak, but only in my own mind.

Thankfully, road rage (incidentally the term was coined 30 years ago during a rash of freeway shootings in California) isnít something that happens often in a place like the Flathead Valley. Thereís a little rush-hour traffic here before and after work most days, but itís a far cry from the big-city gridlock of places like Seattle. Annoying drivers are everywhere, though, and I have my pet peeves when it comes to other drivers.

My top two annoyances are 1.) A driver who pulls out in front of me while I am traveling at full speed on U.S. 93 and then turns off at the next road; and 2.) Drivers who donít dim their high beams as theyíre approaching another car.

The Consumer Reportsí National Research Center polled 900 American drivers to rank their top 20 complaints while on the road, and ó no surprise ó the biggest pet peeve was motorists who text on their cellphones while driving. Other top complaints were able-bodied drivers parking in handicap spaces, tailgaters, drivers who cut you off, speeding and swerving in and out of traffic, not using turn signals, not letting you merge into a lane and slow drivers on a two-lane road who wonít pull over.

I can add a couple more: drivers who donít pull over for emergency vehicles and drivers who donít stop for school buses that are stopped with flashing red lights.

Itís startling to me to learn that nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the past year, an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found. Even more startling, 8 million U.S. drivers engaged in extreme road rage, from getting out of their car to confront another driver to purposely ramming another vehicle. That same study showed 91 million U.S. drivers honked to show annoyance or anger last year and 67 million drivers made angry gestures at another motorist. And worse yet, 5.7 million drivers admitted bumping or ramming another vehicle on purpose!

Thatís a lot of rage out there.

Thankfully, AAA also offered some timely tips to help prevent road rage:

ē Donít offend: Never cause another driver to change their speed or direction.

ē Be tolerant and forgiving: The other driver may just be having a really bad day. Assume that itís not personal.

ē Do not respond: Avoid eye contact, donít make gestures, maintain space around your vehicle and call 911 if need be.

There will always be bad and inconsiderate drivers. I need to remember that during my daily commute, with an emphasis on being tolerant and forgiving.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at

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