Getting angry over driving trifles

This video below shows what can happen when two drivers both try to enter a Taco Bell drive-through line at the same time and then each refuses to yield to the other, ending up blocking the line for everyone and the police having to be called in. The video was taken by a driver who was stuck behind as the people in the two contesting cars demanded that the other back down, and the videographer could not believe that this standoff was over Taco Bell food.

This is due to a combination of two factors: unclear right of way plus the curious anger and intransigence that people seem to be prone to when they get behind the wheel of a car, when being delayed by even a few seconds or inconvenienced slightly is sufficient to cause yelling, physical violence, and even death.

Usually, at least on the main roads, there are signs indicating who has right of way at the merge point. But it is important that one does not demand the right of way but yield it. It is always better to yield the right of way if the other driver seems to be taking it because they may have not noticed the signs requiring them to yield. There are a couple of places on the highways around Cleveland where one highway feeds into another and one sees this sign that does not indicate which lane has the right of way. Because the cars are traveling at high speeds, I find this extremely dangerous and have observed the cars ahead of me in each lane blithely going along until they realize at the last moment that they might side-swipe each other and swerve to avoid it. I am familiar enough with the locations of these signs that if the traffic is heavy, I get out of either lane before I enter the merge point.

Road rage is a real danger. A couple of friends of mine described frightening incidents where they admitted they had done the wrong thing but despite making apologetic signs, the other drivers were so outraged that they followed them for a long time, trying to either intimidate them, cut them off in retaliation, or maybe stop them to do who knows what.

People get really, really angry about minor driving inconveniences and given the easy availability of guns in the US, ones should not get into confrontations, like the one that led to the senseless murder of a young woman.

District Attorney Tom Hogan said 28-year-old David Desper of Trainer, Delaware County, turned himself in about 2 a.m. Sunday in the killing of the young woman – who had just shopped with her mother and grandmother for items to bring with her to her freshman year in college.

“This is the story of a savage and senseless murder,” said Hogan.

The motive was as trivial as it gets, he said: “Because somebody didn’t want to give way. Because somebody didn’t want to merge into a lane of traffic.”

He said Desper, on the Route 100 bypass at the same time as Roberson, “jockeyed for position and wasn’t happy. So he pulled out a gun and shot Bianca in the head.”

Even a priest has been arrested for threatening with a gun another driver who was trying to overtake him.

There is something about driving that brings out an aggressive streak in otherwise normal people who will refuse to yield even when there is absolutely nothing at stake except a second or two of lost time. I try to remember piece of advice that I heard as a very young boy that being right is not always the most important thing:

“He was right, dead right, as he went along.
But he is just as dead now as if he had been wrong.”

It is simply not worth it to risk a confrontation or an accident or even death over trifles. Just yield.


  1. jrkrideau says

    All this over a Taco Bell?
    Now if it was a Tim Horton’s I might understand, but Taco Bell?

    I have not owned a car in over 25 years and about 90% of my in-town travel is by bicycle. My rule, as a cyclist is “Any car driver is assumed to be a half-blind, crazed, homicidal maniac until they step out of the car”.

    Disney’s “Motor Mania”

  2. Mano Singham says


    That’s a great cartoon. They should show it at driver’s ed classes.

  3. jrkrideau says

    I never thought of using it for driver’s ed but it would be good.

    I was watching what appeared to be a gratuitous example of road-rage a couple of days ago when someone in an SUV was honking and making rude gestures at the car ahead. I don’t know if something had happened earlier but it looked to me as if the driver had become enraged because the other driver had taken 1 or 2 seconds to start after the light had turned green.

    I have had some doubts about self-driving cars but the more I think about it the more they sound like a great idea. Unlikely to have fits of road rage or be texting as they commute.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 3 robertbaden When I’m walking I feel that way about bicycle riders. Well, walk on the sidewalk not the road. 🙂

    There are some horrible cyclists out there but they don’t wear a half tonne or so of armour and travel at 120kph nor do they have a tendency to descend into violent road rage. It is hard to be threatening when you are on a 10kg bike.

    Cyclists, like pedestrians, are conscious of their vulnerability plus they don’t go around in a steel and fibreglass Faraday cage that cuts them off from the rest of humanity.

  5. Trickster Goddess says

    I witnessed a rare incident of bicycle road rage last summer. A bicyclist went through a red light and was narrowly missed by a car. The bicycle turned around and followed the car and caught up with it at the next light. The cyclist punched the driver in the head through the open window then pulled the door open and started pulling him out of the car. The driver resisted until he was on the pavement being pummeled, then finally started fighting back and ultimately got the upper hand before the police arrived. The cyclist was charged with assault and failure to stop for a red light.

    I watched all the drama from the safety of my seat on the bus. (Safe, since this being in Canada, there was a near zero chance of bullets flying.)

  6. jrkrideau says

    @8 Trickster Goddess
    Was that in Toronto? If so I may have heard of it.

    As I said there, there are some horrible cyclists out there but that is a touch unusual, especially if the cyclist was at fault to begin with. I’m glad they got him for running the red light.

    I, once, watched a cyclist cross a main street in the crosswalk against the light and nearly get hit by a car. It was not clear if the police would be called so I, at the time on a cycling safety committee found myself giving the driver my card and saying that I would be a witness on his behalf if need be.

    I felt a bit silly but the cyclist was clearly in the wrong and breaking the law.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    I had to quit bicycle commuting (Toronto) some years ago because idiot drivers were taking all the fun out of it. I was on the way to my own explosion of road rage. I really miss the riding, but I’m far less likely to be smacked into by a cell phone using fool on my stationary bike.

  8. chigau (違う) says

    I had to stop using the “shared use” paths on my walk to work because the fucking pedal-heads were not clear on the concept of “sharing”.

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