Weil's World

Road Rage: A Detriment to Health, Safety, and the HVAC Business

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There is no doubt about it – people are just flat out angry. Public rudeness has grown by leaps and bounds and is never more evident than in the crazy antics of raging drivers as they zip in and out of traffic, flipping each other off, and even stopping to kill one another.

The other day I was driving into work on a city street that, like so many city streets during the summer months, had road repair construction reducing the lanes from four to two. Obviously traffic was backing up in both directions. That lead to a breakdown in patience, horns blaring, people yelling a each other through unrolled windows in sweltering July summer heat. It was surreal.

Two or three cars ahead of me was a van with the logo of a local flooring contracting firm proudly displayed on the back panel. The driver was apparently going too slow for the driver in the car immediately behind it who was just pounding the horn and swerving back and forth in an attempt to either see around the van or make a move to get around it.

Of course, oncoming traffic didn't appreciate this guy swerving back and forth and headlights blinked, horns were honked and fingers were flying. That seemed to set the driver off even more and at one point, he (or she) swerved into the oncoming traffic lane, pulled next to the van, and then pulled back into the lane, forcing the van off the road into the construction cones. It was incredible.

Luckily, there was no accident and the van driver did not reciprocate the rage of the guy who cut him off. The car in front of me braked and let the van back into traffic. But I was shaking.

According to the American Automobile Association, there are about 1,200 incidents of road rage annually in the United States. This translates into an average of 300 injuries and fatalities. Statistics have also shown that most of us have been involved in an aggressive driving experience either as the victim or the aggressor at some point in our lives. Some of the signs of aggressive driving include following tailgating, driving at excessive speeds, weaving through traffic and running stop lights and signs.

It doesn't matter if you are driving your personal vehicle, a commercial vehicle, or a motorcycle. Even people on bicycles get involved in road rage incidents.

As an HVAC contractor, every single one of your service and installation vehicles is subject to these conditions. Are your drivers trained on how to handle them? Just seeing what happened to the commercial van in front of me, I have to say I admired and respected the driver's restraint.

It also made me think that there may be some rules of thumb on how to handle such incident. Yes, common sense should prevail, but I found an interesting website with some tips we can all follow. The website is actually HowStuffWorks.com, and they have a lot information on road rage. To get to the exact page, just click http://bit.ly/AvoidRage.

The key points:

  1. Control your temper (even if someone really does something stupid and dangerous). That means don't make eye contact or any aggressive gesture.
  2. The car horn isn't a weapon. Don't use it aggressively because it very easily can further anger an already raging driver who will follow up with some irrational, potentially violent act.
  3. Physical reactions to someone's aggressive behavior can result in even more aggressive behavior.

OK, those points are great, but they're often easier to say than do. So what do you need to do to control your own rage? Check this HowStuffWorks.com page out: http://bit.ly/StopMyRage.

You'll find five really good suggestions there on how to stop your own aggressive behavior. The one that works best for me is to simply turn my music up, sip my coffee, and view the time in the car as downtime.

HVAC contracting vehicles are certainly no exception to road rage. On HVAC-Talk.com, there is an interesting discussion on this topic (http://bit.ly/qkJaHQ).

Have any of your field personnel ever been involved in a road range incident? Did it result in an accident or injury? What did it cost you in terms of medical leave, insurance, law suits, and so on?

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