Road Rage: Is Your Life Really Worth It?

I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life.  I’ve been driving since I was able to get my learner’s permit at age 16 (no, I won’t tell you what year that was…)  The point being, I know what it’s like to drive in Massachusetts – and for anyone reading this from the Bay State, you know:  It isn’t pretty.  Why this is so has been the subject of both serious speculation and jokes (including the well-earned moniker of “Massholes” to describe most Massachusetts drivers.)

It used to be true that other parts of the country (with the possible exception of drivers in New York City,) were much tamer and more civil.  But this problem is no longer two things:  1) It’s no longer funny – it can be downright life-threatening; and 2) It’s no longer confined to Massachusetts.  Like a metastasizing cancer, road rage has rapidly spread to other parts of the country – places where it was rarely experienced in years past.

The AAA recently completed a nationwide study of this problem – and it’s disturbing.  I think that, generally, everyone on the road has known about this growing problem, but this AAA study put some shocking statistics on the face of it. Among these numbers:

  • 8 in 10 U.S. drivers have admitted to engaging in “some form” of aggressive action toward other drivers when behind the wheel.
  • 51% admitted to intentionally tailgating another driver, as some kind of retaliation.
  • 47% admitted to rolling down their window and yelling at another driver (usually obscenities.)
  • 6 million drivers acknowledged that intentionally bumped or even rammed another driver for some perceived retaliation.
  • Another 7 million admitted to having left their car to physically confront another driver.
  • And, no surprise here – drivers in the Northeast are among the worst offenders.

CBS News also recently reported on this problem. What is going on here?  Why has what used to be a largely regional behavior, spread like wildfire?  What has become of people?  In my view as a Boston motor vehicle offenses lawyer, I see evidence of this every day in the courts:  Clients charged with Assault & Battery with a Dangerous Weapon, Operating to Endanger, even Attempted Murder.

This cascading behavior has its explanation in two words:  Media violence.  Whether it is the entertainment media or the news media, violence is constantly pumped into our homes and our heads, not unlike brainwashing or programming.  Violence – including profanity and cruelty – has tragically become the “norm” in America now.  Almost no behavior is perceived as being “wrong” or shameful anymore.  The evidence of this is everywhere:  Images, audio, and behavior that Americans never would have seen as publicly acceptable, are now perceived as being just that:  Acceptable.

Profanity?  Obscenities?  Those are things that children’s’ mothers used to tell them not to speak in front of other people.  Now, you hear it in all kinds of public places – supermarkets, streets, public transportation, and the workplace.  Violence in the media used to be tempered.  Now?  News media show every gory detail they can about every act of violence that they can broadcast or print.  The wild explosion of violence in sports – with savage exhibitions such as caged fighting – draws millions.  Violent video games directed at both old and young, depict barbarism, sadism, and depravity on a scale beyond description.  I’ve written previously about how cancerous and depraved all this commercialization of violence is and what it is doing to our country.

If we don’t stop this escalating violence, and soon – it will eventually stop us.  I know where I stand and what I’m going to do.  What about you?  Believe me, you don’t want to have to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney because you’ve been arrested for some kind of road rage offense.  Never mind the considerable attorney’s fees it will cost you.  Do you really want to risk your life?

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