Road rage: What you should know

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 15 Agustus 2014 | 20.01

Listen to a driver calling 000 as his car is shot in an Outback road rage attack.

THEIR eyes flash with anger as they storm towards you with fists clenched and screaming abuse.

In the most extreme cases they try to run you off the road and even fire shots. Some cases have resulted in people being killed.

Road rage, which has been dubbed "highway terrorism", is happening across Australia. From suburban streets, to freeways to highways, drivers are taking their frustrations out on other motorists.

In the past 24 hours alone there have been two shocking incidents which have left three people injured.

The first, in the Blue Mountains on Thursday afternoon, occurred after a minor collision. Police said a couple in their 50s were treated for bruising, and the man suffered a small stab wound, after they were followed and forced to pull over.

They were then assaulted on the side of the road for several minutes.

The second happened on the Central Coast and began when a 28-year-old man driving a Suzuki Alto was allegedly tailgated for 20 minutes.

The 18-year-old male driver of a Ford Laser forced him off the road, causing the Suzuki to roll several times. He was then chased from the crashed car and allegedly punched in the head.

the teenager will face court on predatory driving, assault occasioning actual bodily harm charges.

Zephatali Walsh, road rage shooting victim, outside the District Court, Adelaide. Source: Supplied

Sketch of Michael Craig Anderson, who was found guilty of attempted murder last month, after a road rage incident. Source: Supplied

Gun used by Michael Craig Anderson during road rage attack in South Australia in July, 2013 Source: Supplied

Road rage is a subject often talked about but experts who have studied the growing problem don't believe it is well understood.

Dr David Indermaur, an associate professor at the Crime Research Centre in Western Australia told those who commit road rage don't suddenly lose control when they get behind the wheel.

But they are difficult to stop and once they snap the consequences can be fatal.

"It's more a reflection of [the offenders] world generally people who come from violent backgrounds see aggression everywhere. What I say to people I treat is try not to see the world or road as a place where there is a competition and everyone is out to get you."

In the majority of cases the perpetrators were young men who had a history of violence.

"If you come to the road and see it as a competition or racetrack then that is the attitude which underlies the aggression and justifies — in some people's mind — the violence."

However Dr Indermaur said it was wrong to blame road rage on the stresses of driving. The location of where it happened was not the trigger for violence, it was the person's inability to contain their aggression.

A man was stabbed in Chipping Norton following an argument between two men in a car in July. Source: News Corp Australia

"It's individuals who feel very entitled and have uncontrollable aggression."

Once the person was on the warpath they were unable to see what they were doing was wrong.

"People who get involved in road rage often lose all sense of perspective. They are consumed by their rage and do things that dont make any sense whatsoever to those who are watching."

Despite that, Dr Indermaur said it was not all about losing control.

"With these violent men there is a sort of control at the time. They choose a victim they can dominate — they don't choose a battle they think they could lose, so there is a rationality of it.

It's all about power and a feeling they don't actually have control [so] they engage in violence."

Last month a former soldier, Michael Craig Anderson, was found guilty of attempted murder by a jury at the South Australian Supreme Court after he fired shots at another driver, Zephatali Walsh, during a road rage incident.

It's hard to say how much road rage actually occurs in Australia each day. It's there, in every capital city and smaller towns, but only the truly worst cases are ever heard about.

Blood stains are left at the scene of a road rage incident near to the Stanhope Parkway and Conrad Road roundabout, Stanhope, in June. In that incident a man was stabbed while another had his ear severed. Source: News Corp Australia

This is partly due to the fact there is no single 'road rage' offence — instead people face a variety of charges depending on the severity of their crimes, including murder.

A paper published by the Australian Institute of Criminology confirmed reporting of road rage incidents depended largely on the severity and was a difficult to ascertain how large a problem it was.

To avoid being a road rage victim there were steps you could take to avoid a confrontation or at least lessen the blow.

"The best advice is make yourself a small target and not to engage with them."

That meant winding the window, not getting out of the car and avoid eye contact. The slightest thing could be perceived by them as a challenge.

Peter Bennett was the victim of a road rage attack in Victoria in December 2013. It left him with about 15 staples in his head as well as neck injuries. The attackers left him on the side of the road. Source: News Limited

For many victims this was the mistake they made.

"Don't fight with them because what you're dealing with is a disturbed individual and people think its OK to take them on, so to speak, and that's a mistake."

Because of this victims of road rage attempts were usually in the same demographic as their attackers, young men.

A 2011 survey of 3740 Australians found 85 per cent believed drivers were becoming more aggressive.

Of the capital cities, Brisbane drivers were considered the worst followed by Adelaide and Perth, Melbourne and then Sydney.

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