Road rage. Chances are, you’ve either experienced it for yourself in a jaw clenching moment of frustration, or you’ve seen it in other people on the road. Studies actually show that almost 9 in 10 Australian drivers admitted to experiencing road rage at one point or another. Even I must admit that I’ve experienced road rage, although a more passive-aggressive version of it. Usually it involves me firmly gripping the wheel and talking to myself: “Oh wow, you’re a real hero buddy. Thanks for not indicating before braking right in front of me, mate.”
Road rage is a serious problem in Australia but for a country that has such a progressive and ever-improving road system, why are we so easily pissed off? Take Vietnam for example; this is a country caught in a tango between overpopulated cities and limited road improvement. Traffic jams are frequent and hourly occurrences within Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh, with roads looking more like oceans of mopeds than actual roads.
Compare this nightmare scene to Australian traffic, and suddenly our traffic jams feel like gentle strolls in comparison. So why are Australian drivers more prone to road rage than Vietnamese drivers who have to deal with constant honking, ambiguous road laws and bad mannered drivers?
Australian Roads and Road Rage
In Australia, our roads are constantly being upgraded and built upon to ensure the maximum safety, convenience and punctuality needed for our ever growing population. However there are obviously still problems in regards to anger on the roads. In 2017, Queensland had a 13% increase in “dangerous operation of a motor vehicle” offences being given to reckless drivers. And that’s not even counting the drivers who display road rage but don’t act on it in an illegal way.
So what ticks off drivers the most, what causes that spike in blood pressure when you’re on the road? The main triggers were found to be encounters with slow drivers, other drivers cutting in or overtaking, accidents between vehicles and being late. Aggressive drivers often justify honking their horn, yelling or intimidation as ways to teach the other driver a lesson; to punish them for doing the wrong thing. No one likes to be late, so watching that dashboard clock tick over while traffic inches forward agonizingly slowly can make people act irrationally. All of which can cause more problems than you started with, and with some cases can turn physically violent fast.
[Video: Nine News report of a violent case of road rage in Australia (2014)]
Psychologist Dr. Scott-Parker says that because being on the road in an isolated car causes a feeling of territoriality, a lot of drivers end up doing things behind the wheel to defend their territory; things that they normally wouldn’t have done if they were, say, in line at the bank. Cars have turned into airconed, musical cocoons that disconnect us from the world, which could contribute to feelings of invincibility. Compare this to the Vietnamese who favour mopeds, motorbikes and other open-air modes of transport, we can maybe see a difference in how the two countries act on the road.
Vietnam Roads and Road Rage
Vietnam is a rapidly developing nation that has seen itself grow from one of the poorest nations to a lower-middle income country in the space of 30 years. Though this is a tremendous feat, there is still a lot to be done in terms of infrastructure and road quality.
When I visited Vietnam earlier this year, I was both amazed at the hustle and bustle of the streets, and concerned about the safety of the roads and bumper to bumper traffic. Of course I only really experienced being a pedestrian (note the video of me and some friends bravely crossing the road) and never really had the opportunity to drive around Vietnam, but not a day went by that I didn’t witness some sort of crazy driving over there.
[Video: Me and some friends crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh city; spoilers we survived!]
I was seeing situations that would completely baffle the Aussie drivers back home. Forget overtakers and slow drivers, the drivers in Vietnam are on a whole other level. It would appear to me that drivers in Vietnam, particularly the mopeds and motorcyclists, would do almost anything to not have to stop in traffic. I saw people driving full pelt on the wrong side of the road, people driving on the footpaths, and people flying through obvious red lights. A typical two-lane road would almost always transform into five-lanes as mopeds go head to head, Mario Kart-style.
[Video: Usual nighttime traffic in Ho Chi Minh, note the mopeds driving on the footpath!]
Have I mentioned the motorbikes and mopeds? Ho Chi Minh is a highly populated city where citizens choose motorbikes to easily navigate their way through alley ways and 24/7 congestion. As a result, there are 7.43 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh alone – that’s nearly one person! That’s not even including the extra 1 million bikes that visit Ho Chi Minh from outside the city every day, making the number of bikes on the road exceed the number of human locals. The sheer numbers alone are enough to make me shudder thinking of how frustrating it would be to drive everyday in Vietnam.
So why isn’t there more road rage in Vietnam, when clearly the environment is prime for it? Maybe it’s because the majority of drivers are not in giant metal cars zoning out from the rest of the world. Being exposed on top of a motorbike might make people avoid acting out in anger since the close proximity with other motorists makes it easier for them to retaliate.
A Vietnamese local said it well; of course people get frustrated when they’re driving, but most choose to not act on their frustrations otherwise they’d be angry for hours and at everyone around them. So maybe it’s actually because of the high-stress situations that force drivers to remain calm, less they risk becoming completely exhausted from raging (at best), or in jail (at worst).
So there we have it. All road rage really comes down to is tolerance. Being in a crammed, dangerous Vietnamese traffic jam, people really try to suppress their rage in order to get home safely and sanely. However in Australia, being stuck behind a slow driver or being cut off by someone, people don’t register how dangerous it is to act out in rage when they’re sitting in a 4×4 hunk of metal. Not to mention it’s terrible for your blood pressure. So unclench those teeth, take a few deep breaths and get home safely guys.