With road rage growing on California roadways, road peace is desperately needed. Most people remember the rage-induced shooting of a six-year-old on the 55 freeway in May. On August 7 a road rage incident on the 5/57 freeway interchange resulted in the death of a suspected road-rager and the wounding of a police officer.
In 2020, 38,650 people died nationwide in auto accidents, including 3,723 in California, the highest count since 2007. Speeding (inspired by those empty freeways), along with alcohol and drug use were principal causes. But pandemic anxiety and frustration triggering road rage also contributed.
Ending the bitter political and ethnic conflict in our country remains a distant dream, but highway civility is within every driver’s reach. Though individuals cannot stop the carnage on California highways, we can do something. We can take small steps by practicing road peace as an antidote to the road rage so prevalent and toxic.
Every day we see chronic and annoying examples of road rage—speeding, hot dogging, red-light running, rude gestures, tail gaiting, needless beeping. Road peace provides a modest counter to this—serious, cautious driving (the way one drives when a small child is on board), politeness (yes, let that other driver squeeze in ahead of you once in a while), no race-car-like competition, and empathy when someone makes a stupid lane change or doesn’t instantly go when the light changes or drives too slowly while looking for a new address.
It might help if we’d install a small magnet on the dash of every car with the famous peace sign (encircled, inverted Y) and the word “Peace.” A gentle reminder every time we turn on the ignition
Quixotic? Maybe, but isn’t it uniquely human to make progress by seeing visions and dreaming dreams? As citizens, we all have an obligation to do something to heal our wounded world. Why not start with road peace?
Benjamin J Hubbard is professor emeritus of religious studies at Cal State Fullerton
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