If you’re going to enter any hazardous environment, it makes sense to equip yourself - not only with the right tools - but also a plan. This is just as true, in my view, for driving, as it is for going door-to-door in Fallujah, or welding some pipes in an oil refinery.
Here are the top eight ways to throw a spanner in the works, when you’re face-to-face with a poster boy for poor impulse control, out there, on the road.
RIGHT & WRONG DON’T MATTER
Forget about right and wrong. The only thing that matters on the road is personal safety. Traffic is an imperfect environment - people make mistakes. Some behave like outright malicious tools. That’s just a given.
Your principal job as a driver is to roll with the punches here, and keep everyone safe.
The thing to avoid is a chain reaction of escalating aggression, and the inevitable consequences.
LOSE THE CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER
There’s something about getting into that big, metal exoskeleton. Makes some people think they’re entitled to this bit of road or that. Makes some people think they can behave in a manner that would get them punched in the head in the supermarket, or fired, in the workplace.
Just drive like everyone is potentially out to get you. Then it won’t be an disappointment when they are.
In 2014 a former banker and scumbag of the year Ian Bouch, then 48 years old started tailgating the vehicle ahead, flashing his lights and blowing his horn. Generally driving like a prick.
The vehicle ahead contained mum, driving, three school kids on the way home from school, plus the baby. Perhaps Mr Bouch felt they had impinged his moral entitlement in some way. Perhaps he was - is - just a self-entitled cock. Entitled to revenge. Can’t you see how important I am?
So he overtakes the vehicle with the family aboard, and immediately jams on the brakes for no reason. Both vehicles stop, just … but the truck behind the family, it can’t stop in time, and following the crash, one of the children, a 10-year-old boy, dies from massive head injuries after five days in intensive care. Imagine that.
Mr Bouch was sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in jail, and thankfully he lost his appeal last year.
SCUMBAGS R US
If you’re one of those people who always plays by the rules, it might surprise you to learn that society’s scumbags use the roads too. Scumbags like Clinton Brimson, 35.
Father of five, driving a 4WD with a trailer, Mr Brimson became enraged when a car cut him off. So, at the next traffic lights, he jumps out, yells obscenities at the 59-year-old driver and then assaults him. As you do at the supermarket or in the office.
At the time, Brimson was six months into a suspended sentence, which meant he also had to be re-sentenced for assaults he’d committed against a former partner and a family member. At least he’s consistent.
So, what do you do? Confronted by someone you’ve angered? Do not engage them - not at all. No eye contact, no rude gestures. Don’t brake test them. Throw water on the fire, not gasoline.
Last year, two scumbag drivers in South Australia were found guilty of causing the death of a 63-year-old pedestrian. Colin Munn, 32, and Damien White, 43, had some long-running dispute going on.
There was some verbal abuse between them in traffic, Munn in one car; White in the other. High-speed road rage ensued - real-life fast and furious, only with consequences. 120 in a 60 zone. Damien White killed Stuart Oates while Mr Oates was crossing the road outside a shopping centre.
After the crash, Damien White’s antagonist, Colin Munn, laughed and clapped his hands, telling White:
“Sucked in. Look at what you’ve done. You’ve killed a man.”
Munn’s eight-year-old son is sitting in the back of the car, presumably watching. Nice. What a role model.
NEVER GET OUT
Whatever you do: if you are confronted by road rage, never get out of the car. Slow down, drive conservatively, windows up, check the locks.
The car is a fortress - do not step out of it. The situation is not going to improve, face to face. Balance of probabilities: All outcomes get substantially worse, up close and personal.
NEVER HEAD HOME IF FOLLOWED
Finally, if you are being followed by some outraged scumbag - if pulling over, attempting to let them past, etc., if the disengagement strategies have not worked: Don’t head home.
Stay somewhere public. A petrol station is a great idea, because A) they’re everywhere, and B) they have kick-arse CCTV. Park near the console operator. Call the cops. Keep the car in drive, foot on the brake.
Finally, the best way to prepare for emergencies is: Before you get in one. That’s how pilots and soldiers do it. It’s all very Baden Powell.