The Real Reason Behind Road Rage?

motor-maniaThis piece combines two of my favorite interests — the English language and Disney.

In 1950, Disney produced a Goofy cartoon entitled Motor Mania, in which a mild-mannered “Mr. Walker” transforms into a manic “Mr. Wheeler” every time he gets behind the wheel of his car.  (There are multiple uploads on YouTube.)  It’s a great cartoon with a lot of real-world truth, and leads to the question, “So what causes road rage anyway?”.

I’ve found an explanation.  In the “Verbal Energy” column of the October 10, 2016 issue of The Christian Science Monitor Weekly, Ruth Walker says this —

“Motor Mania” came to my attention when blogger John Lavey, of Community Builders, an urban design and economic development outfit out west, published a post headlined “65 year-old Disney cartoon perfectly explains the craziness of driving a car.”

“Driving an automobile,” he wrote, “asks one to exist in a sort of quantum state where our errors are forgiven but those of other drivers cannot be tolerated. Where, on the one hand, the speediest route between origin and destination is demanded when behind the wheel and, on the other, space, safe harbor and time are needed when acting as a pedestrian.”

But what engaged my attention most in the piece was a quote within a quote, ascribed to Dr. Nigel Thrift, an expert in “human geography”: “Drivers cannot … communicate their concerns as fully as they would want and there is therefore a consistently high level of ambiguity in driver-to-driver interaction.”

“Drivers cannot … communicate.” This confirms something I’ve long suspected: One of the reasons we have road rage is that just about the only way drivers can communicate is through blasts of the horn or aggressive flashing of lights.

So what we need is a communication system among vehicles.  Ruth’s suggestion is a series of lights around the car, possibly color-coded, that could be used to send apologies.  Or perhaps even a message board, kind of like the destination signs on buses.

In any event, it’s something worth considering.

This Verbal Energy column, “Could Word Power Save Us From Road Rage?”, is online at  The photo is from YouTube.

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