Even priests have been known to commit the sin of road rage

A survey found 70% of drivers had experienced another motorist's road rage, says Trevor Laffan, who recalls the first time he witnessed it
Even priests have been known to commit the sin of road rage

HOT UNDER THE COLLAR: Trevor Laffan once witnessed a priest lose his temper in a car, when he was a garda

BACK in the 1980s, I was a young garda attached to Blarney Garda Station.

I had recently been transferred from Blackrock in Dublin, and I was delighted with my new surroundings. Village life moved at a slower pace than what I had been used to, which suited me fine.

It was a lively spot in the summertime though, with all the tourists milling about, but there was always a good atmosphere around the place.

I didn’t realise until I got there how popular cycling was. The Blarney Cycling Club is one of the oldest in the country, if I’m not mistaken, so it wasn’t unusual to see races being held in the village, and I can remember the first time I had to perform traffic duty at one of them.

The cyclists were doing laps of the village and to keep the regular traffic flowing, there were a few of us positioned at different points around the place. We would hold up the traffic until the bunch of riders passed our points, and then we would let the traffic flow until the cyclists came around again.

It was a stop-go system, and it worked fine most of the time.

One day, I had my back turned to the few cars stopped behind me when I heard a shout. I turned around and saw a man leaning out the driver’s window and I could tell he was agitated.

As I walked towards him, I could hear him swearing, and it was directed at me. He wasn’t a happy camper, but it wasn’t until I got up close that I saw the collar.

I realised then that I was dealing with a priest from outside the area, and he was in a right state. Swearing like a trooper.

I was taken aback at first. I tried to engage with him, but he wouldn’t allow me to get a word in.

He was ranting about being late for a funeral, and he was threatening to drive past me.

I explained to him that driving into the middle of a group of speeding cyclists might not be the best course of action, and could in fact increase his workload, with extra hospital visits and potential funeral services.

But I only really got his attention when I suggested he was heading for a visit to a cell, and not the kind used by monks.

When the cyclists passed, I sent him on his way, and he took off, leaving a trail of dust behind him.

I think that was probably my first experience of dealing with road rage. I don’t remember it being common back then, but it certainly is now.

A survey conducted on behalf of AA Ireland found that 70% of drivers have experienced another driver’s road rage, and more than half have encountered aggressive driving from someone else.

One in four has experienced verbal abuse from another driver, and more than half of motorists admitted to shouting insults from inside their car. This drops to 30%, though, if they think the other person can hear them.

The survey also found the most common type of road rage people identified was aggressive driving. More than half said that they had experienced dangerous overtaking, beeping or flashing lights, tail-gating and so-called ‘brake-testing’.

A quarter of motorists have suffered verbal abuse from another driver, but only 1% said they had encountered physical violence outside of the vehicle.

One woman in her sixties found herself in that 1%. She contacted Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme and described an incident she had with another driver on the M50 in Dublin.

I didn’t catch what she did to annoy the guy, but they were stuck in heavy traffic when this character approached her car and started banging on the driver’s window with his elbow.

He was shouting at her and opened her door and spat in at her before returning to his car. He cut in in front of her and then kept tapping his brakes.

The woman was terrified, so terrified that she wouldn’t even report it to the gardaí in case he found out where she lived and came after her.

It’s a pity she didn’t report it because he deserved at least a fine. There was no excuse for that behaviour. Abusing her was bad enough, but spitting at the woman is unforgivable and speaks volumes about the guy she was dealing with. He could do with visiting someone like Paul Hunter.

Hunter, from the Cork Hypnosis Clinic, provides therapy for people who struggle with road rage, and he told the AA why some people struggle to control their emotions.

He said that three-quarters of the time, it’s about other issues. Something that happened in their personal life, like a row with their partner, or trouble at work, then a small thing on the road tips them into unreasonable anger.

Fortunately, we’re still reasonably restrained here, unlike the United States, where that anger can reach extremes.

NBC reported that, in Texas, a man was recorded on video firing 17 shots at a car during a suspected road rage incident.

In the video shared by police, the driver of a white BMW pulled in front of a burgundy Chrysler, got out, and began shooting at it.

He fired 13 rounds before he put the gun back in his car and grabbed a second firearm. He then fired four more shots, jumped into his car, and fled the scene.

No-one was hit, but several vehicles, including one that was occupied, were struck by gunfire. Thankfully, we haven’t reached that stage of aggression here yet.

In the meantime, here’s some advice. The best course of action in road rage situations, is not to engage with the other driver. Report the matter to the gardaí instead and let them deal with it.

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