Common Tread

Are we having a road rage epidemic?

Jul 28, 2015

It seems as if road rage has been making the news far too often lately. 

First, there was the woman in San Diego who chased down, ran over, and killed a Navy officer on Interstate 5 after getting into some sort of argument. Cell phone footage showed her tailgating the driver, and others present on the freeway reported watching as she sideswiped his rear tire three times before he went down.

Darla Jackson, the driver of the Nissan Altima shown in the video, faces 15 years to life for the incident.

Next, there was the Los Angeles motorcyclist who was knocked over after yelling at a driver for talking on his cell phone while at a light. You can watch the entire altercation from the rider Samuel Ayers' point of view from a camera mounted to his helmet. It shows as he pulls away from the light, looks back several times as he sees the BMW approaching rapidly, and then suddenly goes down. Ayers suffered a concussion, two hairline fractures, and a broken foot from the incident.

I was contemplating writing a piece but got busy doing other things, until this latest video from Arizona began making its rounds on social media.

This video, also taken from a camera mounted to the rider's helmet, shows a man get out of his car and attack the rider and his passenger. From the dialog in the video, it seems as if the rider may have split between cars to get to the front of the line, an act which is not legal in Arizona. The driver doesn't even attempt to yell at the rider before striking him in the helmet, which almost knocks him over. You can hear the mix of adrenaline and fear in the rider's voice as he yells at the man while he tries to dismount his bike.

Fortunately, the rider keeps his cool and subdues the man without doing him harm. Some of the reports claim the driver was under the influence of alcohol, but whether this was the case or not, there is clearly something wrong with him.

With all three of these incidents hitting the news in the last month or so, it begs the question: Are we more prone to road rage? Or is it just that we're catching it more because of the prevalence of helmet cameras and cell phones?

To be honest, each of these three cases surprised me before I'd even considered the trend because, as a Southern California motorcyclist, it feels to me that drivers are becoming more aware and courteous toward us. Freeway drivers often pull to the side of the lane to help me split, and most of the people who live on or frequent popular riding roads will pull over and wave us past more often than not. If two of these cases hadn't happened in California, I might chalk it up to the different drivers in other parts of the country (far too many of the drivers I passed legally on my most recent trip to Oregon yelled or honked at me).

I don't know if I believe it's happening more or just being caught on camera more, but we need to take warning and make sure to ride defensively to try to avoid becoming a victim. Remember, being in the right doesn't keep you from being hurt.