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Polis Report

Road War

By Lin Neumann

Irritability, suspicion, overwork, rudeness, attitude and a few thousand pounds of steel capable of great speed. Sounds like a prescription for potential disaster, and it is--increasingly so, according to a new report from the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety.

In the report, the AAA concludes that "road rage" is on the rise and likely to get worse before it gets any better. Aggressive driving incidents have grown by about 7 percent a year during the '90s, according to the study, an increase of some 60 percent since the start of the decade.

"People have been shot because they drove too slowly or played the radio too loud," said David K. Willis, the president of the AAA Foundation. Yet this is only the small tip of a very large iceberg. For every aggressive driving incident serious enough to result in a police report or newspaper article, there are hundreds of thousands more which never get reported to the authorities.

AAA tells us that the many incidents involve nearly every kind of person in society. Sure, most are male and most are relatively young, filled with the simmering low-grade "attitude" that seems to pass for intellect in some circles. But such sensitive characters are not alone out there with their rage. Hundreds of others are successful men and women, AAA says.

Over the six years covered by the study, a total of 12,828 people were injured or killed as the result of aggressive driving, mostly involving incredibly trivial incidents. Cutting off another car, going slowly, flipping someone off, playing loud music, honking the horn, tailgating, failure to use a turn signal--the list reads like a catalogue of behavior from Morons R Us.

But I know how it happens. After a morning of small slights, I've gotten plenty steamed at some anonymous asshole who grabs a parking space or refuses to ratchet his freeway speed to accommodate me. Fortunately, I usually calm down before I do something truly stupid, but I can see how it happens. I think most of us can.

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From the May 22-28, 1997 issue of Metro

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