Following an alleged road rage incident in Bryanston, Johannesburg, on Monday, the urgency of addressing the road rage pandemic in South Africa is in the spotlight again

Police have confirmed that they are investigating a case of attempted murder following a shooting on Monday afternoon in Bryanston Drive.

According to Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, information from the scene revealed that one vehicle, a Mercedes-Benz, stopped in front of another Mercedes-Benz and there was a “scuffle” between the two drivers.

On Monday, News24 reported that eyewitnesses said the two men had an altercation in Bryanston at which point one man shot the other. The wounded man is said to be in a critical condition in Sandton Mediclinic.

Earlier in November, celebrated South African swimmer and Olympic medallist Terence Parkin was allegedly attacked in what appeared to be a road-rage incident.

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Managing director of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, told Wheels24 that road rage has become a serious concern in South Africa and many drivers have been the victim of drivers who become enraged.

‘Car becomes a weapon’

“When many people get behind the wheel, their personalities change and the car now becomes a weapon. They also become impervious to the consequences and each time they escape these consequences, they become bolder,” Herbert said.

Incidents of road rage are becoming increasingly common on our roads, seemingly growing in frequency as traffic, personal and professional demands, as well as stress levels, see people under ever more pressure.

“Road rage often has very little to do with traffic. If you’re already at boiling point following an argument with your boss, for example, a driver who cuts in front of you could send you over the edge – turning into the kind of rage that leads to anything from a minor upset to loss of life”, says Maanda Tshifularo, head of Dialdirect.

“We owe it to ourselves and other road users to be better drivers, to proactively manage our time and the factors that lead to road rage better and to control our emotions and reactions to our own stress, as well as to other people’s outbursts.”

Six questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re prone to rage:

  • Do I exceed the speed limit to get to work on time?
  • Do I drive too close to other drivers?
  • Do I flash my lights and hoot to let drivers know when they annoy me?
  • Do I curse or shout at other drivers whether they can hear me or not?
  • Do I weave in and out of traffic to get ahead?
  • Do I feel the need to ‘set bad drivers straight’?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, you could be at risk. Take proactive action to address this and let go of these bad habits.

How to avoid road rage:

  • Don’t take others’ bad behaviour personally. When encountering another motorist’s bad driving and/or seemingly arrogant attitude, remember that it probably has nothing to do with you. It is far more likely that that the driver was distracted by something in his/her own car, or upset by something else, and the ensuing behaviour was not meant to deliberately irk you.
  • Be defensive first. Putting your vehicle and life on the line isn’t worth it. Be firm in obeying the rules, maintaining your line and sticking to your rights, but be prepared to step back if you see that the situation is about to escalate. Rather report bad drivers to the authorities and alert these authorities to bad driver behaviour hotspots.
  • Plan properly. If you are the type of person who allows just enough time to drive to an appointment, you might be more prone to losing your temper and speeding. Add 10 minutes to your expected journey time and leave on time to allow you to negotiate roadworks or other unexpected delays, without worrying about being late. It will make you a calmer driver overall.
  • Use navigation technology at your disposal to smooth your journey.
  • Change the radio channel. Listen to music that relaxes you, rather than hypes you up. Or, use the time to listen to an audiobook of a novel you’ve been meaning to read for months.
  • Tackle your issues off the road. If things are amiss in a professional or personal relationship, or stress takes hold of you, address and resolve these issues directly, as soon as possible. Don’t be too proud, thinking that counselling is only for a certain profile of person. Professional help could help you find much-needed balance in your life and make you less dangerous to yourself and others.

How to react when dealing with a raging motorist:

  • Make sure that your car doors and windows are closed and locked.
  • Do not confront the raging driver, as this could worsen the situation. Breathe, maintain your composure and focus on defusing the situation.
  • Try to remember the licence number of the driver’s vehicle to report them to the police and/or the company they represent.
  • Leave the scene as soon and as safely as possible. If the raging driver prevents you from doing so, or you are involved in an accident with a raging driver, call for help immediately by either contacting the police or using the Namola app.

“If you see the road as a good place to settle life’s scores, it could cost you anything from a couple of thousand rand, to a prison sentence,” Tshifularo says.

“A healthy self-evaluation, a defensive attitude, some good habitual changes and restraint when things go awry could make SA’s roads that much safer.”

Aggressive driving ‘a major concern’

The South African Police Service (SAPS) says aggressive driving is a major concern and a real threat to the safety of all road users.

“Any unsafe driving behaviour, performed deliberately and with ill intention or disregard for safety, can constitute aggressive driving. In extreme cases, this may escalate to road rage, which is a violent criminal act involving the intention to cause physical harm,” police say.

The SA Police Service provides the following tips on how to deal with aggressive drivers, plus helpful hints to reduce your own stress while driving:

– Protect yourself:

If you are dealing with an aggressive driver, make sure your car doors are locked. If you have stopped in traffic, leave enough room to pull out from behind the car you are following. If an aggressive driver confronts you, call 10111 or drive to the nearest police station.

– Do not take it personally:

Be polite and courteous, even when the other driver is not. Avoid any conflict, if possible. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move out of the way. Never underestimate the other driver’s capacity for causing harm.

– Reduce your own stress:

Understand that you cannot control the traffic or other motorists, only your reaction to them. In the end, you may find that your frustration, anger and impatience are the real danger zones on the highway.