My drive to work includes a stretch of road immediately following a traffic light where two lanes merge into one. Coming back from lunch Tuesday I was stopped at the light in the right, behind one car with one car in the left lane. As we waited for the light to change two more cars rolled up to our left.

The red gave way to green and we started moving, we began alternating as one would expect, the first car on the left hitting the merge first, followed by the first car on the right, then the second car on the left, then ... the third car on the left. This car accelerated to within a few inches of the car in front, ignoring traffic etiquette as well as common sense, hanging me out to the right with nowhere to go.


I used my go-to gesture for such situations — no, not that gesture, just a shrug of the shoulders to say “Why?” — and then, a quarter-mile later, pulled up beside the car at another light and looked over trying to convey my confusion at the need to assert such car dominance. The passenger looked at me and gave me what I can only assume is his go-to in-car gesture — yes, that gesture — as the driver joined in. I turned right to go to work, but what if I had been going straight? How might the three of us have acted over the next few miles?

The next morning I was driving my youngest daughter to gymnastics practice in Westminster. Sitting at a four-way stop, the car directly ahead of me went first, then the car to my left. My turn. I pressed down on the gas pedal and then slammed on the brakes because another car from the left decided to zoom into the intersection and turn left, completely oblivious to the red octagon designed to keep cars from running into each other. I laid on the horn.

Deja vu, a quarter-mile later, at a stop light, I pulled up beside the offending vehicle, again looking over and gesturing — just with shoulders and palms, no digits — with body language asking “Why?” while my considerably raised voice asked, “Did you not see that stop sign?” The woman put down her cellphone long enough to scream back, “I did stop!” before rolling up her window and facing forward. This got me steamed and my volume increased as my mortified daughter hid her face, worried the woman might pull a gun. Of course, the woman might’ve had similar worries about me.

Two days, two commutes, too many perfect strangers furious with each other. Not technically road rage, but not my finest moments, Nor, I’m guessing, theirs. None of which is particularly uncommon.

There are a few reasons why we get so mad while driving, according to Psychology Today. First, driving is dangerous and that makes us tense. Second, we have a destination in mind, a goal, and we see our goal being blocked. Third, whether the rule of law or our own unwritten rule, a rule has been violated. Finally, the offenders are anonymous, making it easier to label them idiots with no evidence to the contrary.

Unfortunately, there is probably no worse place to get angry than in a moving vehicle. Driving safely is difficult enough with so many cars on the road and so many horrendous drivers. (I’ll plead guilty to getting mad, but innocent to the ludicrous, unsafe driving done by my counterparts.)

It’s also the least satisfying place to be angry. Get mad at home or work and you can have a reasoned conversation to address any issues. Get mad at a Ravens game and you can scream to your heart’s content. Get mad at something a columnist has written and you can (and do) write insulting emails or letters to the editor.

But what can you do in the car when someone does something wrong — something that could have grave consequences next time — and every fiber of your being wants to point that out? If the worst that happens is a little yelling, honking horns and the occasional obscene gesture, no big deal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the worst that happens.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has linked more than 12,500 injuries to driver violence, out of 10,000 car accidents since 2007. The Zebra, an online insurance company, found that 467 fatal accidents were road-rage related in 2015, up 500% in less than a decade. Want another reason to be mad at millenials? They are involved in more than 50 percent of anger-related accidents while Baby Boomers are in fewer than 5 percent. Of course, anger is how we got here.

There is good news, though, for the millenials, for me and for all the angry drivers out there: Self-driving cars never, ever get mad.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.