A recent article in the Sunday Times discusses a new website designed to help alleviate South African drivers of their "road rage". The website proposes that instead of the customary cursing and hooting that usually occurs whenever drivers are confronted by reckless or selfish road traversers, they can send an SMS, costing two rand, as a complaint to the website with the perpetrator's car's details described. The website will then post their complaint online and find out whether the driver in question has a track record of such behaviour.
There is already debate as to whether this system is beneficial, or even so much as helpful to anyone in regards to road rage, let alone not an exacerbation of an already serious problem. Many road safety knowledgeables argue that this sytem will distract drivers and hamper their driving, or even cause them to break the rules in a hypocritical manner, as they pursue other drivers in a frenzied witch hunt.
However, this website does provide drivers with venting space to let loose all those pent up emotions and if it is not abused it has a lot to be said for it. This active stance against reckless driving may be the solution to a long-faced problem in South Africa.
It should be noted that this website does promote vigilante justice, which is technically illegal. Many officials, such as the police in charge of traffic, worry that such encouragement will lead to extreme actions from the public as they mercilessly chase down the sources of their ire: "This is a private initiative and what concerns me the most is the fact that motorists might SMS while driving, causing road offences themselves." The police do not wish their jobs bungled by the inexpertise of the public and wish to keep drivers as free of distraction as possible whilst traveling the road.
Which leads us to another point of concern - being the distraction presented by working a cell phone in a car traveling eighty kilometres an hour on a busy road. This is down right dangerous and led to many concerned voices being raised in protest to the danger presented by this website's solution. One particular example would be a driver smsing to the website, "Maniac...weaving through the traffic at speed with a cell phone stuck to his ear and lit cigarette, which he is flicking out of the window, in the other hand-" The tense of the text leads us to rightly assume that the sender was busy watching the culprit while simultaneously sending the text message and, as far as one can understand, driving as well.
Michael Edwards, co-founder of the site, replied to criticizing comments with the phrase, "Stop. Breathe. SMS". This shows us that he had not intended for such negligence of the rules of the road and that he still wishes to attain his original goal: reducing road rage. He shows this by advising the drivers to stop and attempt to calm themselves before reacting. If people were to abide by the laws, their own sensibility and, to be honest, rather obvious logic, we may be looking at a vast improvement to our road safety.
It is a concern to all who drive that people do not always adhere to the rules of the road. It does, however, help one feel much safer knowing that one has influence over one's own safety. This outlet for road rage has the potential to solve the problem. As an alternative to actions that may lead to violence or accident, drivers are now able to deal with their anger in a more productive manner.
All we can hope for is that this system is not abused. If you are a righteous person seeking retribution for the mocking of the laws of the road, then this website is a positive step in the direction of safer road travel. Adversely, it is worrisome that this might become an obsession for some and that it will cause more problems than it will solve, especially regarding cell phone usage while in a car. In the end, time will tell whether this pays off and whether action or restraint proves to curb road rage.