It started with a California trucker

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Road rage, like a myriad other modern syndromes, was first identified in the United States 12 years ago.

When a pick-up truck driver shot dead the driver of a Cadillac car who cut him up on the main 405 freeway in Los Angeles the Los Angeles Times coined the phrase to explain the extraordinary act of violence.

After a spate of similar attacks in Miami, the term gained widespread usage. And, according to Edmund King of the British Royal Automobile Club, "like the best Miami vices, it got imported into Britain some years later".

Originally, it was used to describe ordinary people who were transformed behind the wheel into violent and abusive tyrants. Examples poured forth. A 78-year-old driver died when he was punched by a driver half his age during a dispute at traffic lights in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. A 51- year-old man was killed when he was run over by a truck after a four-mile running battle.

Mr King said: "Then it became trendy to describe anything on the roads as road rage so it lost its meaning. To be honest, there is a serious problem, but because this has been used as a catch-all phrase we have found it hard to persuade the police and the Department of Transport to take it seriously."

Rebecca Rees, of the Automobile Association, said that there was nothing to suggest that road rage was distinct from any other form of anger, but for many people driving had simply become the most frustrating activity that they regularly engaged in.

However, she pointed out that it may not be a new phenomenon. Lord Byron wrote to Thomas Moore in 1817 describing a "row on the road ... with a fellow in a carriage, who was impudent to my horse. I gave him a swinging box on the ear ..."