Tuesday 27th February, 2007

 

David E Bratt, MD

 
 
 
 
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Road rage in a rage

  • More drunk aggressive drivers are on the streets.
  • Traffic violence is increasing.
  • Traffic jams are increasing.
  • Protect yourself, focus on your own driving.

A is for accidents. B is for brakes, or lack of it or sudden, as in pass and “jess stop so,” suddenly. C is for cell phones. D for duncy and E is for all of the above as in the typical driver in Port-of-Spain.

At ten to six on a Sunday morning, the Cocorite highway is still dark. The street lights are on. The car in front is driving with no lights. No tail lights, no front lights. Is the driver drunk? He’s not weaving. Maybe he just forgot to turn on the lights? Perhaps, as one taxi-driver told me, he’s trying to save his battery? He could also be just duncy. Pass him wide.

In St James now and here is another well-known madman, one of the many we have in Port-of-Spain, in and out of politics, riding his bicycle in his space outfit in the middle of the road without a single light. I have to abruptly swerve to avoid him.

The sun has not come up over Laventille and already my heart rate and blood pressure are up and I have cursed out loudly, twice.

Road rage in a rage.

Violence exhibited by drivers in traffic, usually in response to something another driver just did, used to be rare in sweet La Trinite. It is now common. Traffic used to be rare too. Remember the days when you could drive around the Savannah without mashing brakes once?

Road rage can be thought of as an extreme case of aggressive driving. Its milder forms, wild acceleration or sudden braking, tailgating, cutting others off in a lane or weaving in and out of traffic, deliberately driving slow in the fast lane or driving in the passing lane and keeping pace with the car next to you so as to enforce the speed limit are considered normal driving in Port-of-Spain.

Then there is the horn blowing and flashing lights excessively, the shouting, screaming and cussing and the supreme hostile gesture, the finger or “highway salute” or “digitus offensicus.”

Finally, there is the physical confrontation, which basically comes down to hitting the other driver with something, whether it be your car, your hand, your cutlass or your bullet.

Of late I understand there has been a decrease in episodes of the physical confrontation type of road rage because so many people have guns.

Road rage itself is increasing and seems to parallel the increase in cars on the road, ie traffic jams. Every three to four months, 10,000 cars come onto our narrow roads, built for donkey-cart drivers and, since all roads lead to the capital city, in colonial times to export produce and in nationalistic times to concentrate power in one place easy to control, jam is the pleasing result of those old-time technocrats running the country, who believe traffic, high rises and plenty stop lights equal progress.

With the arrival of cheap roll-on, roll-off cars and money running through Trinidad like the famous dose of salts, those donkey-cart drivers are still on the roads, driving cars but with no change of culture. Higher speeds, fast foods, concrete buildings and traffic jams make no difference to brains accustomed to a slower pace of life.

The arrival of suburban assault vehicles may have contributed to aggressive driving. Heaven help the driver of a smaller car who attempts to cut off one of those huge, heavy, metal SUVs.

Many women of course will claim that they bought their SUV for protection from aggression or kidnapping. They still have to get out.

What is sure is the sense of invincibility they give. In your big, metal soundproof shell of a car, CD booming and cell cackling, the illusion that you are alone in the world, disconnected from the plebes outside and master of the universe must be overwhelming.

When it’s just somebody else in a car, humanity is dehumanised. The other guy is simply someone who did something bad to me.

How do you protect yourself? If someone cuts you off, tailgates you, or is otherwise rude, your best response is to stay focused on your own driving, listen to calypso and ignore the other person’s antics. 

If they continue to follow or harass you, drive to a police station or look for a police officer and try to get his or her attention. Hah!

If you can’t do either of these things, drive to an area where there are lots of other people so you can get help. Under no circumstance should you pull off the road hoping they’ll just go by. It’s much safer to stay mobile.

Don’t let another driver’s stupidity or recklessness draw you into a deadly confrontation.

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