To get the low-down on exactly what the roads were like during the 2023/24 holiday season, we approached Stan Bezuidenhout from IBF Investigations for feedback. Stan is an internationally recognized crash expert with more than 23 years of experience locally and in other countries, and he spent a lot of time on the roads as he was appointed in a variety of cases from Durban to Cape Town and in between.

We would like to share his experiences in heavy traffic and having to share the roads with heavy commercial vehicles during the Festive season – as well as advice on how we should do it safely!

“To my interest, I specifically noted that heavy commercial vehicles were regularly involved in collisions, seemingly caused a lot of traffic friction, and resulted in as many as hundreds of vehicles becoming “trapped” behind them, to the frustration of their drivers, and to the point where they act very recklessly to “solve the problem…” Here are some of the most dangerous actions I have seen on the road, along with some advice on how the truck driver or other road users can act to reduce risk, avoid the carnage, and get home safely, with special consideration for the challenges faced from heavy commercial vehicles, while traveling for holidays:

Example: Semi-trucks squatting in a lane without allowing faster traffic to pass can lead to congestion, frustration, and unsafe passing manoeuvres by other drivers. Truck drivers should use designated slower lanes, and if in the right lane, move to the left to allow faster vehicles to pass. Other road users should exercise patience, maintain a safe following distance, and use legal opportunities to pass.

Example: Prolonged overtaking by semi-trucks with minimal speed differences can impede traffic flow, leading to frustration and increased chances of unsafe passing attempts. Truck drivers should execute overtaking manoeuvres efficiently, ensuring minimal disruption to traffic. Other drivers should avoid aggressive overtaking and be patient, waiting for clear and safe opportunities.

Example: Driving too close to other trucks while preparing to overtake can obstruct traffic, creating a bottleneck effect for many miles. Truck drivers should maintain safe following distances and plan overtaking manoeuvres with consideration for surrounding traffic. Other drivers should stay alert, avoid tailgating, and patiently wait for overtaking to be completed.

Example: Semi trucks driving closely together hinder the ability of faster vehicles to overtake individual trucks, leading to traffic congestion. Truckl drivers should leave sufficient space between vehicles to allow for safe overtaking. Other road users should anticipate such situations, exercise patience, and take advantage of clear opportunities to pass.

Example: Overtaking in the face of oncoming traffic creates significant hazards, forcing other road users to drive on shoulders for safety. Truck drivers must adhere strictly to safe overtaking practices and never attempt manoeuvres that compromise the safety of oncoming traffic. Other drivers should not succumb to pressure, maintain their lane, and report unsafe driving behaviour.

Example: Trucks being used as a weapon to intimidate or delay other road users pose a severe safety threat, potentially leading to accidents and road rage incidents. Law enforcement should take swift action against aggressive driving behaviours. Road users should report such incidents to authorities, maintain a safe distance, and avoid engaging with aggressive drivers.

While this addresses the issue of how trucks affect traffic flow in a variety of ways, road users often react by becoming enraged. Road Rage is a very dangerous phenomenon that can literally drive people to the level of criminal conduct or even dangerous attempts to “punish other road users,” or even to escalate to the point where they can face very serious charges, like reckless driving, culpable homicide or even murder.

Here are the stages or road rage that people can intentionally anticipate or look out for, and the steps they can take to govern their own actions proactively:

Trigger: Negative past driving experiences may contribute to heightened frustration and impatience. Reflect on past experiences and consciously adopt a calm and patient mindset before embarking on a long road trip.

Trigger: Observing unlawful actions by fellow road users can provoke irritation and anger. Focus on your own adherence to traffic laws, and try to accept that you cannot control the behavior of others. Report severe violations to authorities rather than letting frustration escalate.

Trigger: Perceiving a lack of law enforcement presence may lead to a feeling of lawlessness on the road. Recognize that law enforcement may not always be visible, but it is still active. Stay committed to responsible driving, irrespective of immediate monitoring.

Trigger: Inconsiderate behaviour by fellow drivers, such as cutting off or tailgating, can fuel anger.

Foster empathy by considering that other drivers might be dealing with challenges. Avoid retaliatory actions, and focus on maintaining your own safe driving habits.

Trigger: Negative perceptions based on the make or model of certain vehicles can lead to biased judgments. Challenge stereotypes and recognize that driving behaviour varies widely among individuals. Avoid generalizations based on the appearance of vehicles.

Trigger: Regularly witnessing unlawful actions by specific classes of vehicles, like Taxis, may breed resentment. Acknowledge that individuals, not entire classes of vehicles, are responsible for actions. Report consistent violations rather than attributing them to a broad category.

Trigger: Direct encounters with intentional aggressive actions by other road users can evoke fear and anger. Stay calm, avoid escalation, and prioritize safety. Report severe incidents to law enforcement.

Trigger: Fatigue, medication, or mental conditions can heighten emotional responses and impair judgment. Ensure adequate rest before long trips, avoid driving under the influence of medications that may impact alertness, and seek professional help for mental health concerns.

Trigger: Challenging road conditions and adverse weather may increase stress levels. Adjust driving speed to match conditions, maintain a safe distance, and stay focused on controlling your own vehicle.

Trigger: Heavy traffic and jams can test patience and contribute to frustration. Plan routes to avoid peak congestion times, use traffic apps for real-time updates, and accept that delays are part of driving.

Trigger: Encounter with individuals displaying psychopathic or narcissistic traits and a propensity for rage can be unsettling. Stay vigilant, avoid confrontation, and report severe incidents to law enforcement. Focus on personal safety.

Here’s how you can act when you detect road rage from others:

Stay Calm: If faced with road rage, remain calm, and avoid engaging in aggressive behaviour.

Avoid Eye Contact: Minimize potential confrontation by avoiding prolonged eye contact with an aggressive driver.

Maintain Distance: Increase your following distance to create a safety buffer.

Ignore Provocation: Do not respond to insults or provocations. Focus on de-escalation.

Use Technology: Use hands-free devices to report aggressive behaviour to law enforcement, providing vehicle details and locations.

Seek Help: If threatened, drive to a public place, contact authorities, or drive to the nearest police station.

By understanding the triggers and employing preventative strategies, road users can contribute to a safer driving environment. In situations of road rage, prioritizing personal safety and employing de-escalation tactics are key to avoiding potentially dangerous confrontations.

Let’s hope that, in 2024, public education will take a front seat, that law enforcement will focus more on service and less on revenue generation, and that roads users will become more tolerant, calm, and respectful of others.

Stan(ley) Bezuidenhout

Director, Forensic Specialist, Expert Witness, Trainer, Author
mobile: +27 63 891-8200

Gauteng, South Africa
Serving SADC

Also view:

Festive season 2023/4 – What have you witnessed and experienced?