When you’re spending as much time on the road as you do as a cabbie, there’s a fair chance that you might upset the odd driver. It might be through no fault of your own – somebody might be having a bad day or they may have failed to grasp the Highway Code – but sometimes that feeling of being wronged can lead to an aggressive outburst.
If you find yourself in a road rage situation, it can take you by surprise and leave you unsure of the best way to react. But, as a number of recent road rage incidents have shown, your livelihood can depend on choosing the right option.
Sometimes taxi drivers find themselves involved in a road rage incident. In October last year, a taxi driver was jailed after he was found guilty of causing the death of another motorist in a road-rage race. But the incident was entirely unavoidable, as most road rage situations are.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the scale of the problem in the UK today, the most common causes of road rage and some top tips on how to deal with an incident should one occur.
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As a taxi driver, you probably know as well as anyone how persistent and widespread the issue of road rage is on UK roads. According to a survey conducted for mobile workforce tech firm BigChange, one in five (20%) of UK drivers, equating to some 7.5 million road users, experience road rage at least once a week, while 6% – over two million drivers – get it every day.
The study of more than 1,000 drivers showed that regular road rage was most common among younger drivers. Almost half of 18 to 34 year olds (42%) admitted to experiencing road rage at least once a week, falling to 20% of drivers aged 35-54 and just 7% of those over 55.
More than a quarter (27%) of women who drive regularly for work admitted to getting road rage at least once a week, compared to less than a fifth (18%) of men.
The survey, which was published as part of Leaders for Life – a campaign to help business leaders promote safer driving at work – suggests that road rage is more likely to be demonstrated by drivers who get behind the wheel stressed.
“A stressed or anxious driver’s heart rate can accelerate from a typical 70bpm to over 180bpm; a dangerously high rate for many. Anger narrows a driver’s focus of attention, most often resulting in the driver becoming territorial and impatient – which, in turn, means the driver is more likely to speed or commit other inappropriate driving behaviour,” said Paul Hackett, founding partner of The WellBeings.London, a health and wellness insight-led growth consultancy.
As well as the stresses of modern life, people’s reliance on the car for so many journeys and record volumes of traffic and congestion are other possible reasons why road rage now seems more prevalent than ever.
As highlighted earlier in the article, sometimes road rage goes beyond being shouted out at turns physical. According to research by Auto Trader, some 18% of road users have been threatened physically and one in 10 has actually come to blows.
Stress and anxiety have been suggested as reasons why some drivers can’t keep control of their temper when they perceive an indiscretion on the road. But sometimes all it takes is someone pulling out in front of them for some motorists to raise their voice or make a rude gesture.
A poll by Accident Advice Helpline revealed the top causes of road rage:
But, if you’re intent on staying out of trouble on the road – which, as a taxi driver, you clearly are – you can’t let your own gripes spill over into action, no matter how much they grind your gears!
It can be difficult sometimes to go into work each day with a positive mindset, but it’s important that you set aside any stress before you get behind the wheel of your taxi. If you can do that, you’re a lot less likely to suffer from road rage.
While you can’t control everything in a day, you can manage your time effectively and ensure that you’re not having to race around in order to make a good day’s wage. Leave plenty of time for trips and plan them properly. Build in some time for being caught up in traffic and use a GPS system to avoid congestion where possible.
If you are running late for a pick up, try to let the customer know in advance. They might not be as pushed for time as you think and they’ll appreciate you being honest with them. Rushing to a fare will only increase your risk of accident on the road.
If the car in front or behind you is aggravating you for whatever reason, the experts’ advice is to stay safe and turn the other cheek. If you were to react, you have no idea who you’re dealing with or what their mindset is.
Richard Gladman, head of driving and riding standards for the driver training organisation IAM RoadSmart, says: “Unlike pedestrians walking towards each other, who can easily get a feel of what the other person will do, where they might go or the mood they’re in, you have no such opportunities cocooned in your car.”
Instead of engaging bad drivers, try to stay away from them and concentrate on driving well and within the law. If it helps, pull over for a minute and wait for the driver to disappear from view. It might add little time to your journey but it will help you relax and concentrate on what’s happening around you.
There is no such thing as a perfect driver. We’re all guilty of a minor indiscretion on the road every now and again. Who hasn’t changed lanes at the last second or forgot to indicate which exit you were taking at a roundabout?
Just as you have your pet peeves, so do other drivers. So, if you need to be a bit cheeky and switch lanes having realised you’re in the wrong one or you misjudge a junction and end up causing another driver to slam on the brakes, make it known that you’re sorry.
All it takes is a hand up or a dab on the hazard lights to acknowledge that you were in the wrong. An apology can go a long way in calming down another driver and preventing a road rage incident from escalating.
If someone does pull out in front of you or push into traffic, don’t take it personally – they’ve not singled you out as someone to aggravate, you just so happen to be the car to suffer. Just roll your eyes, or make a comment to your passenger about ‘bad drivers’ if that helps.
As annoying as their actions are, they’re small fry in the grand scheme of things. It’s better to act like the bigger person and drive away.
If you find yourself getting increasingly wound up by the actions of other drivers, it might be time to take time out from the road.
As a taxi driver, you work long hours and that can take its toll on anyone’s mood and outlook. Sometimes a tea or a coffee is just what you need to break up the day and ‘reset’ yourself, bringing your stress levels down.
We know how difficult it can be to take breaks as a cabbie, because it effectively means losing out on a trip or two. But, it’s crucial that you do step out of your car every now and again, for reasons of health, safety and concentration. Remember, a tired driver is a dangerous driver.
If you’re confronted by another driver, the best thing you can do is lock your doors, avoid eye contact and try to safely remove yourself from the situation.
Whatever you do, do not get out of the car and engage in the conflict. This is when serious incidents, like the one we heard about earlier in the article, can occur.
If necessary, call for help on a mobile phone (not while driving), make contact with your taxi base, or make your way to a police station if the other driver’s anger has really boiled over.
If the only option is to sit in your vehicle and ride out an attack – of course, stay vigilant – then collect some evidence. Note down the other person’s registration and report it to the police.
If you have a passenger, ask them to video the other driver on a mobile phone. It might be evidence if the situation escalates into something more serious.
One of the best reasons not to react when faced with road rage is to protect your job; your livelihood.
In this era of dash cams, if you rise to a situation – no matter how much you’re provoked – in a confrontational manner you run the risk of having your licence revoked if a complaint is submitted to the local authority.
In the footage, it might not be clear why you were provoked but no council or company wants a taxi driver on their books that is considered a danger to the public.
Speaking of dash cams, it might be a good idea to install one in your vehicle. Not only would this be able to capture what’s going on in front of you, it’s a good road rage deterrent - it’s surprising what a quick point at the camera can do when an aggressive driver gets out of their vehicle walks in your direction.
Not only that, it might make you a better driver, too.
At the end of each day, take time to reflect on what’s gone before.
If you are able to recognise when you're becoming stressed, angry or impatient while driving, you will be better equipped to deal with these emotions. Try to find time occasionally to reflect on your driving and think about how mood or stress has affected your actions.
The road can be a stressful arena to work in, so it’s important you go into every day with the right mindset, understanding why you are stressed and not looking for confrontation.
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