The unintended consequence of road rage



THIS is the Philippines. The incivility on the road by public utility drivers and private motorists alike has become more pronounced than before. Maybe, it has something to do with the growing number of private cars without license plates and public utility vehicles that have no franchises, because they’re owned by well-connected people.

To top it all, we’re so oppressed by our beloved government that many of us, for lack of a better choice, would use the cramped MRT and dilapidated and smelly trains of the so-called national railway, if not resort to habal-habal (motorcycle back-riding) to compete with others on our way to work and back.

That’s why it’s no wonder that some motorists do things they would never do in other settings like when they’re inside the church. Many of us honk a lot, swear with lots of F-word, and raise the middle finger to threaten other motorists who would cut towards the front of the line.

And that’s just my neighbor, who is a long-time lay minister in our community.

Imagine the rest who don’t go to church. Now, if you cut the line or block a yellow box in an intersection, you’ll be placing yourself in an eyeball-to-eyeball situation with the other driver you insulted who may go beyond it all by showing you his Glock 30.

But then, assuming you’re a law-abiding motorist and you’d like to follow the traffic light even when there are no cars from all sides, and yet this nincompoop behind you started honking his horn to the highest decibel, then what would you do? What would you do if he starts threatening you with physical harm, coupled with tongue-lashing that you’ve never heard before, even from your mother-in-law?

Social and medical scientists call it as “intermittent explosive disorder” recognized as well…like a “disorder” under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the United States. Among us ordinary mortals, including some learned journalists, who are trained to write clearly, would refer to it as “road rage.”

If you want to call it with another name, then try using “traffic tantrum.”

Now, how would you avoid road rage, so that you may live forever to enjoy the company of your loving grandsons and granddaughters? There’s one study suggesting that motorists who customize their vehicles with a significant amount of stickers and other adornments are prone to initiate road rage than the rest who can make do with plain trimmings.

Matt Kaplan, in his June 13, 2008 “Nature” article titled “Bumper stickers reveal link to road rage” says: “People who customize their cars with stickers and other adornments are more prone to road rage than other people,” as he cites the work of psychologist William Szlemko and his colleagues at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The study reveals “the number of territory markers predicted road rage better than vehicle value, condition or any of the things that we normally associate with aggressive driving. What’s more, only the number of bumper stickers, and not their content, can predict the likelihood of a road rage. That means “Jesus saves” may be just as worrying to fellow drivers as “Don’t mess with Texas.”

If this study applies in the Philippines, and I don’t have any reason to doubt it, then we should worry about jeepney drivers adorning their rusty units with fiesta-like emblems and colorful notices like “the driver is not liable for anything lost inside the vehicle, including (one’s) virginity” and “pangpatibay sa relasyon, ang iba’t ibang posisyon” roughly translated to mean “to galvanize relations, try different (sexual) positions” which are offensive at all levels to conservative people like you and me.

However, that doesn’t mean private cars and public utility vehicles that are adorned with stickers of Couples for Christ are safe. Even those who sport “Lingkod ni Cristo” (Christ’s servant) and “biyaheng langit” (trip to heaven) are inclined to commit road rage. It’s the quantity of stickers and adornments, and not the quality (or content) of their message that could predict how motorists can commit road rage at the first sign.

My two vehicles sport only two decent access stickers issued by my employer where I teach some management subjects and by my homeowners association where I started a young family in 1983. Even in the midst of our maddening vehicle-chocked metropolis, I would maintain the kind of person I would like to be even as I wait for more than 30 minutes in a short two-kilometer stretch. It’s not easy.

But it’s a better option than to cut the line and receive tongue-lashing from the other driver—my wife.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook or LinkedIn for his random management thoughts.


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