Some time ago, on a rainy day, I was driving to a meeting. I approached a roundabout thinking I was going straight on, then I suddenly realised I should actually be turning left. Glancing to my left, making sure there was no vehicle, I indicated and moved to the left lane. Looking in my rear view mirror I could see that the driver behind me had had to slow down. I put up my hand in apology and acknowledgement that it was entirely my fault.
He then started driving aggressively, flashing his headlights and tailgating my car, and I could see in my rear view mirror that he was furious. Thinking that he was either going to ram my car or cause an accident with his erratic driving, I took the first available left turning, which turned out to be the empty car park of an official looking building, hoping he would carry on and leave me alone. To my horror he followed me into the car park.
There was no option for me but to stop. I stopped, opened the car door and sat waiting for him. He opened his car door and started walking towards me, shouting and cursing. As he menacingly towered over me, while I was still sitting in the driver's seat, I said that what had happened was entirely my fault, and that I had apologised. I then apologised again, and said I was really not sure what else I could do.
I could see the utter fury etched on his face and I sensed the calculations his brain was making. I thought he was about to pull me out of the car and smash my face in, but suddenly he said, "Oh, okay". Slightly calmer, he walked back to his car and drove off.
I probably did completely the wrong thing, as I now understand the advice to be to keep the windows shut and not to open the door, and to call the police. I was lucky that what I did worked.
After a minute or two, I drove to the place where the meeting was taking place. As I walked into the hall, the person I was having the meeting with was talking to a few people; we shook hands and he introduced me to the others; I was sure that one was the man who had harassed me.
I said, "Aren't you the driver who got very angry with me on the road here?" He said, "No, not me." I said, "That's very strange; he looked just like you and he was wearing the same colour shirt as you." "No, not me," he repeated. He then left, as he wasn't part of the meeting group.
What should I have done? The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has some good advice:
"If you find that you are being persistently followed by an aggressive driver - try to make your way to a public place, police station or busy street and if necessary call the police. Do not allow an aggressive driver to follow you home. Under no circumstances should you endanger your safety or well-being by getting out of the car to deal with an angry or aggressive driver. If confronted with a road rage situation remain in the car with the windows closed and door locked. If necessary, call for help on a mobile phone (not while driving). If you accidentally cause another driver to become angry - hold up your whole hand as a friendly acknowledgement of your mistake - this can diffuse the situation."
What could have driven a professional young man to such rage? It occurred to me that many people assume when someone does something wrong on the road it is a sign of disrespect to the other driver, instead of the more likely reasons, namely, uncertainty of the way, stress or confusion.
We do not behave that way when we walk in a crowded street or supermarket. Why do some of us turn into intolerant unforgiving monsters once we are behind the steering wheel of a car?
Let us all show some tolerance, compassion and understanding next time a driver makes a mistake. Please remember, almost certainly, no disrespect intended.