Are road rage and maddening traffic congestion linked?
It’s easy to get ticked-off by tie-ups
TRAFFIC FATALITIES HAVE gone up in Massachusetts in recent years, but is anyone tracking road rage incidents? There have been a few notable ones in the last few months and weeks.
In Danvers last month, a 33-year-old woman from Gloucester duked it out with a 64-year-old Beverly woman on the roadway of Route 128, leading to charges against both.
Earlier this month on Interstate 93 in Andover, State Police responded to reports of a fistfight in the breakdown lane, but they didn’t make it there in time to talk to the assailants.
Last week, a 33-year-old Avon man and another driver allegedly flashed weapons at each other while driving down Interstate 93 southbound.
And let’s not forget the bizarre and potentially deadly encounter earlier this year that saw one driver clinging to the hood of his adversary’s vehicle at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
What is going on? Around two thirds of commuters in Massachusetts feel stressed, angry or frustrated by delays in their travel, according to a MassINC Polling Group survey released this week. It’s hardly a leap to suggest some drivers are taking out their anger on those around them.
The Baker administration has commissioned a study looking at traffic congestion hot spots, which is due out in the next few months.
A study put out by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 2016 found that over the course of one year, 51 percent of drivers purposefully tailgated, 45 percent honked out of anger or frustration, 4 percent got out of their vehicle to confront someone, and 3 percent purposefully bumped or rammed another vehicle. That 3 percent adds up to 5.7 million drivers.
All of those behaviors can escalate a traffic dispute into something more serious, Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Northeast, told the Salem News for a story Wednesday.“You would never walk down a sidewalk and shout at someone, you wouldn’t try to trip someone or push someone,” Maguire said. “Yet when we get in our cars, we forget some of the manners we would exhibit in face-to-face contact.”
Maguire and others have backed a road safety bill that would crack down on the use of cellphones by drivers. Cellphones can distract those behind the wheel leading to fatal crashes. One minor irony is the reason many of these latest road rage incidents have received so much attention is the cellphone video – captured not necessarily by a driver – of the dramatic and dangerous standoffs.