The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

The 10 Commandments to avoid road rage

Sunday, 9 January 2022, 08:07 Last update: about 5 months ago

Mark Said

Last week, I inadvertently drove out of a side road into the main road without stopping on the “Stop sign with the consequence that I forced the main road driver behind me to brake suddenly. I made him an apologetic sign with my hand, but, apparently, that was not sufficient to appease him. Driving behind me, he eventually overtook me and forced me to stop behind him, whereupon he alighted from his vehicle and walked over to me. Verbally, I apologized again to him and asked him whether he had any damage or whether he was hurt. He replied that fortunately not and proceeded to shower me with a series of names and curses which, for decency’s sake, cannot be repeated here. I remained calm and again told him that I was completely at fault and whether he would accept me buying him a drink. He stood dead in his tracks and asked me how come I did not react to his actions. I simply replied: “why should I? – it's all my fault and I deserve all the horrible appellatives you threw at me” and wished him a good day. With the situation calmed down, we then both drove off continuing on our own separate business.

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This incident set me reminiscing on a trial by jury I prosecuted in, way back in November of 2006 in front of Mr Justice Emeritus Galea Debono, whereby the accused was charged with wilful attempted homicide and convicted of attempted murder of a motorist during a road rage incident in Sliema in January 2003. The convicted person was jailed for 15 years for a violation of traffic regulations, breaching the peace with shouting and swearing and for fracturing the victim’s skull causing him to suffer a 15% disability as a result of the attack. It was Malta’s first-ever highest punishment for road rage.

A few months later, the Vatican issued a set of “Ten Commandments” for drivers, telling motorists to be charitable to others on the highways, to refrain from drinking and driving and to pray you make it before you even buckle up. It warned about the effects of road rage, saying driving can bring out “primitive” behaviour in motorists, including “impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the Highway Code.”

It urged motorists to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense and to pray when behind the wheel. Cardinal Renato Martino had then stated that the Vatican felt it necessary to address the pastoral needs of motorists because driving had become such a big part of contemporary life.

A host of ills are associated with automobiles: drivers use their cars to show off; driving “provides an easy opportunity to dominate others” by speeding; drivers can kill themselves and others if they do not get their cars regular tuneups, if they drink, use drugs or fall asleep at the wheel.

The “Drivers’ Ten Commandments,” as listed by the document, are:

1. You shall not kill.

2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.

3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.

4. Be charitable and help your neighbour in need, especially victims of accidents.

5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination and an occasion of sin (Ferrari owners beware!).

6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.

7. Support the families of accident victims.

8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.

9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.

10. Feel responsible toward others.

Pastoral needs of motorists apart, I have come up with my own down to earth and practical 10 commandments to prevent road rage:

1.      Forget work or home worries, concentrate on driving.

2.      Plan your journey to reduce anxiety and stress.

3.      Adopt a positive mental attitude to help with frustration.

4.      Play music to reduce stress.

5.      Do not try to change other drivers’ attitudes, you cannot,  but you can change your own.

6.      Be courteous and stay calm if provoked.

7.      Drive with your car doors locked and if you see trouble do not leave the safety of your vehicle.

8.      Count from 1-10 (it is old and it works!)

9.      Do not retaliate by sounding your horn, flashing your lights or gesturing; this will only aggravate the situation.

10.  If you are a victim of aggression take the registration number and report the incident to the police.

Remember, it is better to get there late, than not get there at all. When another is already enraged and confronting us it is best to stay calm, avoid eye contact with the aggressive driver so as not to exacerbate the situation,  not to respond to provocative, disrespectful words or actions and to do what you can to avoid conflict.

This is where our obsession with going fast and saving time has led us to. To road rage, air rage, shopping rage, relationship rage, office rage, vacation rage, gym rage. Thanks to speed, we live in the age of rage.

Road rage is the expression of the amateur sociopath in all of us, cured by running into a professional.

 

Dr Mark Said is an advocate

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