Road wars

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

Warning: massive generalisation ahead! What is it about human beings that the moment we get into our cars, we turn into absolute numbskulls, unable to think about or empathise with anyone else who might need to use the same bit of road space as us?

A story on Construction Enquirer this morning caught my eye because it reminded me of this morning’s journey in to the office. According to this story, Highways England recorded a massive 3500 incidents in the three months between July 2017 and September 2017, of motorists driving dangerously at, round and through roadworks, endangering the lives of road workers nd also hurling abuse at them.

Yes, it’s a pain in the whatsit when your journey is delayed. It’s frustrating to just be sitting in traffic when you could be speeding your way to your appointment or wherever you’re going, especially if you risk running late and missing stuff or inconveniencing other people. However, there really is no excuse for acting like a total (insert expletive of choice here) like this guy on the Construction Enquirer story. Having been stopped because he’d driven around a closure point on the wrong side of the road on the A120, he then sped off to avoid the police who were supporting Highways England in enforcing the closure.

This morning’s delight was on a residential road, cars parked all down one side and an altercation at a poor visibility T-junction. In between two primary schools and one of the main rat runs out of town, this road is always a nightmare in the mornings but today, we had the Face-Off scenario. Two cars, both trying to get past a builders’ van, both with cars backing-up behind them, one with a full car’s-length of space behind him, one where the only way back was for him to partially reverse onto the pavement.  Did the First Man do the sensible thing and move back slightly so Second Man could squeeze his car through? Of course not. Instead they sat there shouting and gesticulating at each other, to the delight of the builders who came to gawp, while the rest of us rolled our eyes and beeped horns. Obviously, in this instance it was chaps, but I’m fully aware that the situation could have arisen with men or women, both genders being equally intransigent at times.

There was no budging First Man. As far as he was concerned, it was his right of way and there was no chance he was going to move back even an inch if it would make someone else’s life easier. He was King of his little metal kingdom and no-one could tell him what to do.

Eventually, Second Man had to reverse back onto the pavement, narrowly missing the builders’ van and First Man drove through feeling all pleased with himself and full of testosterone.

I “may” have mouthed something uncomplimentary at him, only to be treated to a volley of fluent Anglo-Saxon in return. He had a car full of primary-school children, I didn’t. Moral high ground re-claimed.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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