A school-aged bully is no different. These usually insecure trolls often have a size advantage akin to the higher horsepower a bully-driver possesses. Child bullies usually single out the smallest, least popular outcasts and make them feel even smaller and lonelier. They feel entitled to the victims’ food, pocket change, or, more broadly, their dignity. And the victims, through no fault of their own, are subjected to a more dangerous and stressful environment because of the entitlement of their aggressors. The exact same is true on the roads.
The other danger in driving like selfish schoolyard bullies is that culture is contagious. When drivers lower the bar for politeness and safety, non-bullies accept bullying as the norm. If other drivers even act just a little more intimidating and reckless than before, then the culture on the roads gets progressively worse.
The behavioral domino effect is what Atlanta and many cities are seeing these days. What used to be just a small group of over-aggressive drivers has now morphed into vogue groups of muscle car clubs that flex their supposed brawn as fashion statements. Those groups then make other drivers angry and even influence them to do the same.
The response to these tailgaters is not to fight fire with fire. Paying aggression back with aggression endangers all parties. If a car closes in on a slower driver, the slower driver should try to get over a lane to the right or just hold their lane. They shouldn’t brake check the bully or try to pass them back. That makes the culture on the roads even worse.
How ridiculous is taking such a mundane and necessary act as driving and turning it into a macho grudge match? Imagine zooming a cart around the grocery store and running up on people in the aisles closely, waiting for them to move. All that accomplishes is getting the inpatient cart-pusher to the next spot a few seconds faster for the cost of angering or hurting other shoppers. Doing that in a car is the same thing.
Slugging or spinning out a bully aren’t the options that solve these problems. Neither is giving the finger or the horn. But the temperature on the roads is too high and the behavior bar is too low. We need to do our part to stop allowing bullying from becoming the status quo on the roads.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on 95.5 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also hosts a traffic podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@cmg.com.