This One Thing Could Stop Most NJ Road Rage (Opinion)
Do you remember the days when road rage meant you screamed obscenities out your window maybe flipped somebody the state bird, maybe tailgated a little bit, and then that was it? People are really stepping up their game over the years. It seems we’ve heard of more and more people trying to run each other off the road, literally. Seems we’ve heard of more people getting out of their cars and approaching other drivers to smash out their windows.
And this year we have had several incidents of either shots fired at another car while on the highway or the brandishing of a weapon. Another brandishing case happened Friday afternoon in Morris County on 287 South. Police say a North Carolina man brandished a gun at another driver on the highway. Long story short there ended up being a police pursuit when the victim called it in and cops got the guy but only after authorities say he also allegedly rammed a police vehicle.
Here’s the thing. Most road rage starts for a reason. Either someone has done something stupid and wrong or at least there is a perception that they did. Rarely is some guy just crazy on bath salts looking to hurt someone for no reason.
Now call me a hopeless optimist but I had a thought. Even the best of us occasionally makes a mistake. Something is in our blind spot. Something is distracting us. We do a bad thing and it wasn’t necessarily on purpose.
Wouldn’t it go a long way if we had a universal physical gesture to say I’m sorry to another driver?
Years ago I had a moment like this where somebody was in a blind spot and, totally my fault, I cut them off. Moments later we met up at a red light. He was right alongside me when I rolled my window down.
This guy was angry. Maybe even seething when he saw that I rolled down my window because he thought I was going to try to turn it around on him and blame him for something. He rolled his window down ready for a fight and then I yelled over to him, “Man I’m so very sorry that was totally stupid of me, I didn’t check properly and I never meant to cut you off dude I’m very very sorry.”
The anger left his face immediately and he actually smiled. And then he yelled, “All good, I appreciate your saying that.”
Could we agree on something to actually convey an in-traffic apology? I only have the theory but I don’t necessarily have the answer.
I mean it can’t be just a wave because if you cut somebody off then wave they will misinterpret it in their anger as thinking you were thanking them for letting you go when in fact you actually nearly caused a wreck. That will only make them more outraged.
In the past listeners have suggested you put a finger gun to your own head to try to say my bad. But with rage being what rage is won’t they just take that as if you’re trying to say you’re going to put a bullet in them?
I looked up the American Sign Language for I’m sorry and it’s putting a fist to your chest and running it in a clockwise circle, kind of over your heart. But in the winter and fall when we have jackets on and a driver sees you reaching up and moving around there is he not likely to think that you might actually be going for a gun?
So clearly I have the idea but I don’t have the actual solution. Yet I can’t help but think if we had a universally understood gesture for I’m sorry for another driver that the vast majority of road rage would go away.