A common recommendation in safety and defense discussions for dealing with road rage assailants, particularly when traffic is light, is to immediately drive to a populated area or to a police station, somewhere you expect that you will get others’ attention. Ideally, the road-rager will disengage when he or she sees that you are no longer a single helpless target, where the presence of others will result in them being held accountable for their aggressive behavior.
I recently heard an interesting variation on this. A woman I know was leaving work around 9pm. Right after she merged onto the highway, a car swerved in from the left directly in front of the car in front of her and rapidly stopped, right in the slow lane. Why? She doesn’t know. But this happened so quickly that she, and apparently the person in front of her, felt they might rear-end the person and both drifted left into the next lane over. While it initially looked clear, apparently a semi was approaching them quickly from the rear evidenced by blaring air horns and a big grill showing in her rear view mirrors.
The trucker seemed pissed. Being cut off while hauling a big, heavy load might do that. That’s very understandable.
But the horns kept blaring.
This woman, after avoiding nearly rear-ending another driver and then nearly getting rear ended by a huge truck, surely amped up on adrenaline, started getting scared about what the trucker might do. But she kept her cool.
She quickly moved back to the now open slow lane where there was an exit coming up. She knew the exit dropped you onto narrower residential neighborhood streets. She knew the area and figured a truck driver, wanting to retaliate would want to avoid driving in such an area. And if he did follow her off the highway, she’d be able to easily get away from the driver on the tighter surface streets.
Well, the truck driver didn’t follow her. Instead of just stopping or reentering the highway, she drove back to the previous entrance on the local roads giving the trucker time to move on in case he was still stewing and waiting for her and then leisurely drove home without further incident.
Interestingly, getting off a highway to go into a residential or unfamiliar area when being followed by a road rager is normally not what you’d want to do. You don’t want to go where your likelihood of summonsing help is low. But this woman, didn’t just blindly follow this line of thinking. She maintained composure, used the context of her specific situation, and did the exact opposite of the generalization, but for a very good reason.
Now I’ve been in a similar position. While merging onto a highway, we accidentally cut off a trucker who then proceeded to try to ram us and then run us off the road. We stopped on the shoulder, but the trucker stopped ahead waiting for us. This was during pre-cellphone days and what ultimately ended the situation was us sprinting past the stopped truck, getting to the next exit and local roads where the truck driver wouldn’t want to continue hassling us and lingering there until the trucker decided to move on.
So I don’t think it’s outrageous to worry that a pissed off trucker might attack. And, in this woman’s case, it may never have escalated to that point. But her willingness to spend a few minutes more getting home at the end of the day by essentially “walking” away from a potential confrontation helped ensure that it didn’t escalate. Sure it cost her a little time. But to her it was worth it.