I don’t mind telling you – I was scared to death…
I was only 7 years old but I can still hear the sounds of the tires of my dad’s station wagon on the metal grating of the bridge crossing the Mohawk river just a few miles from our house in upstate New York.
It was only a 2-lane bridge and the car that had been tailgating our bumper for the last 2 or 3 miles after my father mistakenly cut him off at an intersection, had pulled up only 4 feet off the left side of our vehicle and was slowly pushing us toward the bridge’s railing.
The 50-foot drop to the deep water below would surely mean death to my entire family!
My mother was crying in terror as she sat in the front seat, clutching my 3-y.o. sister, awaiting our fate.
Suddenly, I watched my father reach down and pull something out from under the seat.
As the lights on the bridge flashed inside our car, I could see that he held one of the 6-inch lead sinkers from our family’s recent deep-sea fishing trip in Maine.
In an instant, my dad lowered his window and hurled the weight at the enraged drive forcing us off the bridge.
The vehicle dropped back behind us and I could see it come to a complete stop at the end of the bridge as we sped away.
I don’t know if that lead weight broke the guy’s passenger window… struck him and injured him… or if it missed him entirely…
But that “road rage” attack always stuck with me – and I learned some valuable lessons about what to do and what not to do when another driver is hell-bent on teaching you a “lesson” for one of your driving mistakes…
3 Pieces Of Terrible Advice That Could Get You Killed In A “Road Rage” Attack… And What To Do Instead!
The topic of dealing with a “road rage” attack popped back onto my radar after seeing a new story about Eric Popper…
Popper and another driver had been harassing each other in traffic – throwing hand gestures at each other and yelling obscenities.
When the other driver tried to pass him on the right, Popper pulled out his gun…
When the other driver threw a water bottle out his window at Popper’s car, Popper went berserk.
In fact, his own dash-cam caught him firing multiple rounds through his own windshield.
He thought the other driver was shooting at him!
I think all of us know that pointing guns at other drivers, and blowing through a magazine (and your insurance premium) from inside your own car over getting tail-gated or cut off is a bad idea.
But the thing is, most pieces of “anti-road rage advice” you get from conventional experts is so wrong that it won’t help you in a situation like this.
In fact, there are 3 pieces of bad road rage advice that I want to touch on:
1. “Stop At A Police Station.”
The “experts” will tell you that if you get into a road-rage altercation, you should pull into a police station, I guess the idea being that the other driver will be less likely to start something if there are LEOs present.
Well, that’s fine… but just try to find a police station when you’re, say, commuting on the highway, or driving somewhere unfamiliar.
It’s not like you’ll be able to fool around with your GPS if the other guy is getting super aggressive with you, right?
What To Do Instead: What you need is police help, so use the simplest hands-free option available to you: call 911.
Tell them your approximate location and ask for assistance… and they may be able to send someone right to you.
The other advantage of this is it creates a “paper” trail that establishes you as the victim, not the aggressor.
2. “Pull Over And Don’t Play Their Game.”
Refusing to play the road rage game is a great idea, and a lot of experts will tell you just to pull over and not engage with the other guy.
Well, if you pull over anywhere HE can pull over, your problem just got WORSE, because it could become a physical altercation.
What To Do Instead: Pulling over is fine, but you can’t do it anywhere isolated that gives your attacker a “free run” at you.
Look for places where there are witnesses, like roadside rest stops, and start saying loudly out your window, “Help, this man is following me, call the police!”
It wouldn’t hurt to remember Rule 1 and dial 911 yourself, too, especially if the other driver can hear you on your hands-free phone with the cops.
3. “Try To Remember It Isn’t Personal.”
Without a doubt, the WORST piece of advice for avoiding road rage is to remind yourself that “it isn’t personal” so you don’t get mad behind the wheel.
I mean, that’s great for you… but if the OTHER guy thinks it’s personal, he’s not going to care that you’re maintaining your Zen calm behind the wheel, and your “enhanced calm” might lead you to miss signs of aggression in other drivers.
What To Do Instead: While you’re remembering that it isn’t personal, also remind yourself that other people can lose their tempers, sometimes with no good reason, and you’ve got to stay aware, alert, and defensive at all times in case somebody (like Eric Popper) decides to start throwing lead.
Maintaining THAT mindset, a mindset of alertness, is much better than just staying calm and care-free like you’re everybody’s friend.
Remember, when you’re on the road, there’s no excuse for not keeping your mind alert and your wits about you.
You don’t have to drive down the road in a cold sweat of constant fear… but you can’t afford to be complacent, either.
Drive safe out there!