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ROAD SAFETY SERIES: Entitlement could be the main cause of road rage

Timothy Ortega, 20, describes himself as a “cool and calm” person.

However, he loses his composure whenever he drives his car on EDSA during rush hour in the morning and evening.

He said there were many times when he opened his window and cursed bus drivers for erratic lane changing.

According to Ortega, the improper (or even irresponsible) maneuvers of many bus drivers are both discourteous and dangerous. These could have caused damages to his car and injury to himself.

“I do not know why bus drivers are like that. They think that they own the roads just because they are driving big vehicles. They do not even use the yellow lanes,” he said.

Ortega said that once, he got out of the vehicle to confront another private motorist for tailgating. As a result, traffic was at a standstill for a while.

“I was so tired working all day long and they will do that. It really pisses me off,” he said.

The exasperation, together with immobility caused by traffic, combined with the discourtesy of motorists around an affected driver builds up the tension that eventually explodes into a rage. The real trigger however for the outburst is ruptured pride.

Entitlement is the trigger

True enough, traffic congestion is a contributing factor to road rage especially when drivers are already tired from work and they have to deal with the hellish traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

According to Metropolitan Manila Development Authority general manager Thomas Orbos, the volume of vehicles on EDSA from Balintawak in Quezon City to Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City stands at 8,000 vehicles every hour per direction.

This translates to 384,000 vehicles daily in both directions and the major thoroughfare can only accommodate up to 320,000 vehicles. Add the scorching heat and drivers will curse with more than just the four-letter word.

Lourdes Escolano, a human ecologist points out how pride could be the single most important factor that triggers road rage.

“It is a sense of entitlement egged on by pride,” says Escolano, who is trained in examining reactions in various situations for research purposes.

“Sadly, every driver whether in a road rage situation is motivated by a sense of entitlement. In every situation I have observed that involved anger on the road, the prompt is either not giving way, driving in a way that is unacceptable or even deplorable to the other motorist, or the sense of entitlement that comes from the vehicle size—buses intimidate cars, cars intimidate motorcycles, and so on,” she explains.

“Then there is the trouble that pedestrians bring—a totally different perspective because they do not have metal boxes or frames to protect them,” the human ecologist points out.

Aside from stress, traffic jams and heat, traffic violators also contribute to road rage. Of the four according to Escolano, it is traffic jams that is most unnerving.

“Traffic jams are a waste of time—and claw away the at the core of even the most patient person. The reason is simple, in traffic there are eight different points that confound the driver, eight different drivers with eight different intentions, and it can cause mayhem especially to drivers who are proud. Pride can make one narrow minded. That narrow-mindedness affects one’s cognitive skill temporarily,” she concludes.

Research confirms this notion.

In most cases “road rage is essentially the result of cognitive distortions” which psychologists recognize as temporary dysfunctional thinking. Researchers Christine Wickens, Robert Mann, and David Wiesenthal mentioned in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science that when the triggers are taken away, the cognitive distortions that lead to aggressive driving are reduced.

Yellow lanes

Many private motorists say that majority of public utility bus drivers in Metro Manila are unruly since they do not follow the yellow lane policy of the MMDA.

The yellow lanes are the two outermost lanes that are designated for buses.

The MMDA made the two lanes exclusive for buses to promote an orderly flow of traffic and prevent road crashes.

Last year, the agency recorded 31 fatal crashes, 719 non-fatal incidents, and 17,406 cases of damage to property, all involving buses.

The MMDA is strictly enforcing the yellow lane policy but many public and private drivers continue to disregard the rule.

“Again on this point, it is clear that those who disregard the rules think that they can bend the rules when they want to,” our human ecologist consultant says. “That is again a feeling of entitlement.”

Education and discipline

Lawyer Sophia San Luis, executive director of ImagineLaw, said road safety education is important to drivers to lessen the number of road crashes.

In Japan, road crashes are not rampant since people value discipline and courtesy. However, in the Philippines, most people say majority of the drivers are not formally educated in driving.

In getting a driver’s license, drivers are not assessed based on their behavior on the roads.

Ortega said he attended a driving school when he was 19 and the instructor only thought him about traffic signs.

He also said some people in the province even pay fixers to process their license and skip the practical exam of driving a car.

San Luis said traffic enforcement is not enough to reduce road crashes in the metropolis.

“Drivers should be equipped with knowledge on road safety and road courtesy,” she said. (with inputs from Raymond G.B. Tribdino)

This story, first published at the Malaya Business Insight, was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative-Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and VERA Files.