Road Rage! What About Sticks and Stones?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
16 Feb 2010


I had a funny situation happen to me today on my run. You see I like to run a hill a couple of miles away from the house. On the jog over, as I was running over the bridge to Santee Lakes, I heard some profanity as well as saw a coffee creamer appear on the sidewalk in front of me. Wow  I thought – what was happening… but as my head spun around I saw only a bunch of cars in traffic running through the light.


I would like to say I was not agitated but that would be a lie. In this post I would like to re-examine what road rage is and how one can deal with it if it happens to you. I will follow up with possible actions and repercussions of ones actions in any road rage incident. Here to set the stage is one video of how quickly an incident can happen.


Road rage can be defined as any anger directed at a driver whether incited or not (noticed I did not say justified or not). Often times a person will have a bad day at the office or find him/herself stuck in traffic and then perceive a slight from another driver. The slighted might respond disaporti0nattly do the action.

For instance the flip of the bird might get the response of a water bottle or a guess of the other guy’s family lineage! But what is really happening? My guess is the family dog will be safe tonight! :)

I mean if a person kicks the proverbial dog on the way home and gets it out of his system… the lovable pet should be safe! Right?

The first thing to do if you find yourself involved in such an incident is to try and diffuse it. Even if you were the instigator… tell the other party you are in the wrong and try to gracefully extricate yourself. Why? Because there is no upside! Let me explain.

Say you accidentally cut someone off and they flip the bird as you are stopping at a light. So what? Even if the other guy eggs it on – it takes two to tango.

The idiot (yes I am making a value judgement) probably has a mother, father, brother, sister, wife, husband, son, or daughter at home that depends on him/her. So what if you are innocent and the other guy is guilty as sin? In the greater scheme of things, you will not even remember this incident in a week – why possibly change the course of your life for lunacy such as this?

Think about this, if you get out of the car and go to “talk” to the potty mouth – what good can come of it? Best case is you will take some more verbal abuse and compare family trees. Worst case is someone gets hurt or dies over a minor slight.

The other guy never has to know you had his best interest at heart. I remember a poem my mother taught me as kids were calling me John Zipper at school…

Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you!

So lets look at road rage from the funnel of the reasonable man standard. Ask yourself if you could extricate yourself or diffuse the situation easily by not capitulating. If so it does not make sense to get involved. Ask yourself did the other gal try and hit you? If not just walk away. Did the other driver try to ram your car? If not just ignore him and eventually he will go away.

Now I absolutely believe in a person defending himself against an attacker but what I don’t agree with is stupidity! Now sometimes I drive slow and occasionally I’ll get a driver behind me that is god’s gift to humanity and it is a sin to slow him down driving the speed limit. No matter. If he gets upset at me I’ll just let me curse me and try NOT to egg him on as road conditions permit.

But if the guy/gal does get out of hand an attack – you should defend yourself! Keep in mind that everyone has a cell phone video camera nowadays so if you do have to fight – keep it to what a reasonable man would do in the same situation.

Most states in the US allow for using as much force as needed for the given situation. I might add here that training in some form of fighting or carrying non-lethal weapons should be considered prior to finding yourself in a self-defense situation.

In the video example above if either of the guys had just let the it go – they could have cooled off and driven off happier. Luckily neither one of them wanted to duke it out. I have seen that and it is really sad. It never solves anything but if you make the decision to only fight in self defense, situations like this will be easier.

Remember to eat a little crow because even if the guy is an idiot – he has innocent people that probably depend on him.

Diffuse the situation if possible by ignoring or leaving an angry driver. Try to avoid eye contact if possible (and safe).

If you have to defend yourself – do it at an opportune time! Do not let the other guy have an advantage but do not be overzealous because you might have to answer to the police (they might not have the whole story – only what witnesses tell them).

Now even though I was agitated, I was not in a rage. Had something hit me I might have had to size up the situation and respond appropriately but keep in mind you might feel initial anger but you are in control of how you react!

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

9 Responses to “Road Rage! What About Sticks and Stones?”

  1. Sly Says:

    Nicely done Zipper.

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Sly – step across this line… :) On second thought… sticks and stones will break my bones but Sly will never hurt me (for those of you who don’t know – Sly would not hurt me) :)

  3. Martial Arts News 2.19.10 « Striking Thoughts Says:

    […] punk. Wim covers part one and part two while Dojo Rat also opines.  Crazy old guy needs to read Zimmer’s post. Once again while surfing the fetid waters of the internet I have stumbled upon this crash on the […]

  4. Dr. J Says:

    Excellent post and advice, John! From personal experience, I have apologized in situations where I may have been “right” but there was no point in being violent. I have had to deal with some people who once they felt they had the upper hand, became even more of a bully. I didn’t apologize twice! Maybe in the future I’ll try twice :-)

  5. Matt Klein Says:

    Not sure what the guy in the van did to deserve it, but if a guy came up and spit in my face, I would have a real hard time restraining myself. What you say is entirely correct about the whole episode being meaningless one month from now. It is also true that innocent people may depend on him for their support. But nevertheless, it would be extremely hard to just sit there and take it. I would at the very least have a verbal spray at him.

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Dr. J! It is hard to keep backing away but usually smart to try. I once tried to talk a couple of guys out of the bar I worked at all the while they were talking s@!t. I got them in the doorway and they started to punch. I exploded and a friend took on the second one for me after I got them outside and soon they changed their tune. The bummer was I took five minutes of verbal abuse before I got to hit them. :( but it was the right thing to do.

    Hey Matt! I’m with you here – I would have a hard time too. I fully understand but the reason I try to caution folk is today with all of the cell phone camera’s and CCTV everywhere – it would be better to not get to the point where a cop that comes in after the fact – has to make a decision who it right. In the past I’ve actually tried spitting on a guy to get him to throw the first punch (so I could claim some justification)… the heat of the moment – in retrospect a poor plan on my part.

  7. pepper spray for road rage Says:

    No matter how good a driver you are, eventually you will do something unintentionally that will be misinterpreted by some idiot like the one in the video. In fact, both of those guys are people you hope you never run into.

    That’s why you need to always carry some pepper spray in your car, for those just in case moments.

  8. pepper spray for road rage Says:

    You don’t ever want to be empty-handed if you ever run into either of those 2 idiots in the video. You should always carry some pepper spray in your car, just in case.

  9. My Self-Defense Blog » Blog Archive » Road Rage; Redux! Says:

    […] a minute due to aggressive drivers. I previously posted about, “Road Rage!” and “Road Rage! What About Sticks and Stones?” but I think aggressive driving legitimately has a place in the context of self defense […]