China / Cover Story

Angry drivers taking the road to perdition

By Shi Jing in Shanghai and Li Jing in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2012-03-30 10:12

Traffic congestion sees emotions running high, report Shi Jing in Shanghai and Li Jing in Beijing.

Yu Ping has vivid memories of his confrontation with an angry coach driver at the end of last year. He recalls how the man stormed up to his car as he was attempting to restart the engine at a crossroads in suburban Shanghai.

"I was kind of lost at that point, and the engine died suddenly when I was about to turn left," recalled the 53-year-old. "In my rearview mirror I saw the outraged coach driver immediately jump out of his vehicle and rush toward my car, yelling at me and rapping on the window," he said. Despite Yu's profuse apologies, the coach driver retaliated by swerving past him and speeding away.

Yu may be unusual in that he had never previously encountered that sort of behavior in his more than 10 years of driving, because it appears that a growing number of drivers in China's ever-more congested cosmopolitan cities are being stricken by "road rage".

Originating in the United States in the 1980s, the phrase road rage has been included in the Oxford English Dictionary to define a situation in which a driver becomes extremely angry or behaves violently toward other road users. The symptoms of the condition include exceeding the speed limit, following too closely (a practice known as "tailgating"), erratic or unsafe lane changes, improperly signaled lane changes and failure to obey traffic signals. Possibly the most dangerous example of road rage comes in the form of failing to stop at a red light.

The term first appeared in the Chinese media in 2006 when it was included in a "list of new words used in the Chinese-spoken area in the year", published by the City University of Hong Kong.

It seems that this type of aggressive driving is becoming ubiquitous, with the increasing number of accidents on Chinese roads indicating that drivers are running on a short fuse nowadays.

Angry drivers taking the road to perdition

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