Road rage: My learnings from a personal experience

The crowd began telling me to apologize, knowing nothing about what had actually happened.

BHPian vigsom recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Sharing an incident that could have taken a turn for the worse. I held my ground, but looked puzzled at the turn of events.

Where it started:

The road just at the exit of an underpass is 2 inches higher than the road under the underpass, and the abrupt step transition means two and three wheelers will face a severe shock if they go over that. Therefore all two and three wheeler users take the extreme right track which is relatively better. I must have used this underpass no less than 500 times over the last 3+ years, and would always keep to the right track while on the scooter. There never has been an issue, or an altercation. Yesterday was different, and had to be nasty.

An autorickshaw in the extreme right track suddenly stopped, I was behind the auto rickshaw and braked (I must have been at no more than 15kmph) and this two wheeler rider behind me who was apparently at a higher speed had to resort to emergency braking. As a reaction for having been shaken up, he blew the horn continuously and irritatingly. I've been riding since 1989 but have never ever experienced such irritating honking ever. I was already in a foul mood and this honking turned out to be a catalyst for an exothermic reaction.

I was watching the rider in my rear view mirror as he passed me, and he was helmetless, and on the boil. As he overtook me, with his small daughter standing on the footboard, he shouted at me, obviously laced with expletives. Normally I wouldn't even make eye contact but here, since the exothermic reaction had started, it got the better of me. I told him to first ride safe, and not teach me rules and pointed out that a person not wearing even a helmet has no business to teach others how to ride. That incensed him even further. Here's how the event escalated:

  • I asked him to pull over, and he was getting really agitated apparently because I'd pointed out that he wasn't wearing a helmet.
  • Rather heated, I told him I said that only because he had no business to tell me what he first said.
  • Unmindful of his small kid standing on the footboard, he got off his scooter, and tried to push my helmet off. Now here's where I realised that this was getting too bad.
  • By then a crowd had gathered and he immediately started playing the emotional card about me almost causing him to fall with his daughter, despite me telling him that the problem was because the autorickshaw had stopped and it was because of the step imperfection. All that fell on deaf ears.
  • More people joined in his support, he pulled out the key of my scooter and told me to come to the police station.
  • Here's when I realised that there are days when you're cornered and the best thing is to be quiet.
  • The crowd began telling me to apologize, knowing nothing about what had actually happened. This guy had already invoked sympathy of folks because of his kid. I just told them that there is no question of apologizing when I'd done nothing wrong.
  • I just stood there, listening to all the bashing, knowing that I was not in the wrong, but could do absolutely nothing.
  • The situation was finally diffused after a few minutes, by when I'd already realised that this guy wasn't a habitual goonda, but was agitated only because I'd pointed out that he wasn't wearing a helmet.

All along, I never took my helmet off, and didn't take my mask off too, but can guarantee that if I'd taken the helmet off, I might have received some blows too.

LFI (Learnings from the incident):

  • One root cause of this incident was actually the step difference in road elevation at the underpass. The step imperfection --> autorickshaw stopping --> me stopping--> this guy doing an emergency braking
  • Second root cause was my reaction . No reaction --> no counter reaction --> no escalation and no feeling like an idiot.
  • Never ever react to irate road users, however bad a mood one may be in. It might help when the other side is weak, but that is rarely the case these days when everyone thinks they're Arnold Schwarzeneggers
  • The crowd is generally a bunch of idiots. They have no idea of what went wrong, and will side with the more loud side.
  • Never take your helmet off in such an incident.
  • Stop the vehicle, take the key out and put it in your pocket.
  • Note the number of the other vehicle discretely but don't pull out a mobile to take a picture; this might incense people further who won't hesitate to even snatch the mobile.

I haven't faced an incident like this in many many years but believe that these happen at times when a) the day / time is marked for us to face brickbats for no fault of ours and b) for us to learn and come out better and wise.

Just to feel good, I sent an e-mail to the corporation commissioner hoping that this step defect at the underpass is rectified. I've seen that this approach generally works.

Here's what BHPian anjan_c2007 had to say on the matter:

Quite aggrieved to read what all transpired between the irate road user and you. Its good that it ended without any aggravation from both sides and here the credit goes to you. Also thumbs down to the situation and the gullible passers-by who appeared making the incident ending not conclusive but on a sour note.

The one liner that I find very meaningful in such situations:

" revenge is like biting the rat because it bit you."

Here's what BHPian Samurai had to say on the matter:

 One thing I have learned over years is that our roads are no classroom and there are no students. So we must urge our impulse to teach lessons. When others want to teach us lessons, just refuse to be a student. Even if I make eye contact, I am very neutral and impassive with others on the road.

Here's what BHPian amay1283 had to say on the matter:

I can empathize with you on this. Have been at the receiving end of many glares and verbal abuses even though it is clear that either there is a vehicle braking suddenly ahead of me or traffic signal turned red. So far I have contended with muttering to myself in the safe confines of a helmet or in car.

On road there is no right or wrong just who is more aggressive and can get the public to support them. Unless there is a cop in sight, no point in engaging.

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