Road rage and aggressive driving is an active threat to Israeli life - opinion

One of Israel's clear and present threats is the plight of aggressive drivers.

 THE FUNERAL of Yuri Volkov, stabbed to death during a road rage incident, takes place at a Holon cemetery last week.  (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
THE FUNERAL of Yuri Volkov, stabbed to death during a road rage incident, takes place at a Holon cemetery last week.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Road rage: In a matter of days, road rage has become the number one buzz expression. This phenomenon has been part of our lives since the first car drove along Israel’s single-lane roads. 

Up until now the expression was, for the most part, ignored, while others called its very existence into question. This is somewhat ironic, especially in light of the horrific event that brought the subject to the top of the public agenda and for which an investigative committee has been convened.

One could argue that the dynamics that resulted in the attack on Yuri Volkov, despite reports to the contrary, had nothing to do with road rage. 

Impatience while standing in a long line to withdraw money from a cash machine at a bank, dissatisfaction with the condiments added to a hamburger, or a request from a neighbor to lower the volume of the stereo could just as well have been the trigger, some might say. 

The mere fact that the incident took place at the time Mizrachi, while riding his motorcycle, allegedly jumped a curb in an attempt to bypass a red light or stop sign is mere coincidence, I would suggest. And Volkov and his wife, unfortunately, were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Cars on a highway.  (credit: Pierre-Henry DESHAYES/AFP via Getty Images)Cars on a highway. (credit: Pierre-Henry DESHAYES/AFP via Getty Images)

I’ll leave to psychologist’s and criminologists the discussions on how best to explain what brings about an unprovoked attack, and the appropriate treatment for the assailant. 

But this incident, horrible as it is, does provide the opportunity to make the subject of road rage a talking point. Considering the behavior that is witnessed throughout the day on Israel’s roads, highways, and city streets, we can only be thankful that the number of deaths and injuries caused by irresponsible drivers is not greater. 

Road rage is not unique to Israel

The time has come to recognize that the aggressive, often reckless driving, typical in many cities throughout the world, including Israel’s, is nothing less than road rage, and yet the two are viewed differently as far as the law goes.

Not surprisingly, the term road rage was coined by a Los Angeles news station during a report on several shootings which took place on one of the city’s freeways. The notion quickly caught on and was officially defined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as occurrences involving drivers who commit: “moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle.”

What’s important, however, is that the NHTSA makes a clear distinction between road rage and aggressive driving; the former is viewed as a crime while the latter is regarded as a traffic offense, and puts the blame on the driver.

In both cases, though, we’re inclined to point fingers at the “other guy” who is responsible for creating a potentially dangerous traveling environment.

Signs that tell us how fast we can drive, when we need to stop and give right of way to other drivers or pedestrians, the direction in which a vehicle must travel and the like, are viewed, by many, as mere suggestions. They are to be followed by the meek and timid, not by confident drivers. That mindset is the first, very dangerous step toward road rage.

FROM THERE the slope is steep and slippery. Cruise along any of Israel’s main arteries, and hardly a minute will go by when some serious infraction will not come into view. The culprits come in all flavors: truckers rushing to meet a deadline, newly licensed drivers flexing unpracticed muscles for the first time, company representatives perceptibly swerving from one lane to another while texting the results of a major sale that was just finalized.

And yet these drivers – along with countless others – see nothing wrong with what they are doing. And can we, in all candor, admit to never having committed any of these offenses, or one like it? Hardly.

What’s often forgotten is that driving is a privilege not a right. A license to operate a vehicle must be periodically renewed and can, when deemed necessary, be revoked. Israeli drivers, perhaps, need to be reminded of the difference between road rage and aggressive driving, and that there is a zero-tolerance policy for both.

The penalty points system that currently exists as punishment for driving violations is inadequate to meet this objective, mainly because not all driving infractions get caught and recklessness behind the wheel remains, more often than not, unseen. 

 A police officer uses a radar speed gun to track drivers in violation of the speed limit, 2022 (credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) A police officer uses a radar speed gun to track drivers in violation of the speed limit, 2022 (credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

All drivers, regardless of their record, should be compelled periodically to participate in a classroom, or online presentation on the parameters of road rage, and how it differs from aggressive driving. Emphasis must be placed on the dangers of each, to ensure that automobiles will not be used as weapons.

This will not completely prevent fatalities from road rage or aggression, but it might slow it down a bit. From what I’ve read and heard thus far, a better solution has not yet been offered.

To be sure, road rage is nothing new. Archeologists, I suspect, would have little difficulty digging up evidence of such behavior even when chariots were used as transportation during the Roman Empire. But just because such unabated anger is a historical characteristic of mankind, does not mean it should be condoned, or that efforts at finding solutions should not be made.

So, while the attack on Yuri Volkov may not have been the result of road rage in a technical sense, the opportunity to do something about it should not be wasted. His death, otherwise, will surely have been in vain.

The writer is a retired technical communicator currently assisting nonprofit organizations in the preparation of grant submissions.