The way Harry Stone sees it, something changes in drivers when Rush Hour arrives.
“During the 4 o’ clock mad rush to go home, all the courtesy and consideration goes out the window for drivers,” the Sandy Springs resident said.
That can lead to wrecks. The police call it “aggressive driving,” but drivers stuck in traffic know it as simply impatience and frustration leading to bad decisions on the road.
Stone said his car was hit while he was waiting to make a left turn onto Lake Forrest Drive from Northwood Drive.
“Good Samaritans will let you enter the intersection,” he said, but a truck pulled up and blocked Stone’s vision so that he couldn’t safely turn.
“In my opinion, the other car, who originally let me out, got tired of waiting and went around me in the wrong lane,” which was on the wrong side of the road, Stone said. “When he did so, he scraped my bumper.”
Traffic-inspired anger also appears when drivers cut off others to “brake-check” them, said Dunwoody police Officer Tim Fecht. One time, Fecht said, a driver got so mad he chased another driver through a parking lot until she had to call her parents, who in turn called police.
Fecht described a recent case in which a man pulled out of Perimeter Mall, near the Exxon gas station on Ashford-Dunwoody Road. “The guy pulled out of the mall, drove slowly across several lanes, and drifted into a lane and cut another guy off,” Fecht said.
The cut-off car honked, and the first car brake-checked him, Fecht said, even though he was wrong.
Since both cars had to stop at a red light, Fecht said he walked over just as the man who was cut off was about to start yelling.
“When something like that happens, you get in a tunnel vision aggressive manner, and we were there to break that anger and stop the aggressive nature,” Fecht said.
Brookhaven’s Maj. Brandon Gurley said aggressive driving behaviors contribute to a number of vehicle accidents.
“Officers are trained to identify and target aggressive driving behaviors such as reckless driving, improper lane changes, following too close and others in an attempt to stop these violators before they can cause an accident,” he said.
Just about everyone with a driver’s license understands the span of emotions from fear to anger when another car cuts them off and speeds away during heavy traffic.
Cpt. Steve Rose, of Sandy Springs police, describes the typical scenario as one where one driver “flips off” another driver.
“Often, people will get out and scream,” Rose says, describing a situation where a motorcycle on Ga. 400 got into a confrontation with a car. The driver of the car had a sword that he waved at the motorcyclist, Rose said, noting the motorcyclist took the sword from the driver and called police about the incident.
Though Sandy Springs hasn’t seen a homicide linked to road rage since the mid-1990s, Rose said he’s surprised police aren’t called about more incidents.
“In all honesty, people are rude out on the streets,” Rose said. “They cut you off, they jump in line in front of you.”
Rose said while he was driving in an unmarked police car, a woman cut in diagonally in front of him, where traffic was backed up due to construction on the bridge over Ga. 400. He said he put on his lights and stopped her to tell her, “That’s just rude.”
“Leaving a little earlier in the morning to give yourself more than enough time to get to your destination can help to remove the feeling of rush or urgency, and potentially even lower your stress level while behind the wheel,” Gurley said.
Though Rose admits personally “losing control” when he was a younger man with his kids in the car, he said he’s learned better as he’s gotten older. “It just is not important—if somebody cuts you off, cuss at ‘em all you want in your car,” he said, but he cautions against getting out of your car.
“We’re part of the metro area and people are rude,” he said. “We have tons of volume and people forget what their priorities are.”
Fecht said even the most calm, normal people can lose their cool.
“The majority of people don’t deliberately cut people off. They’re usually distracted, not paying attention or may be lost,” Fecht said. “My recommendation to people is if you get upset, take a step back and a deep breath, reevaluate what’s going on and proceed to your route.