Anger management

The traffic fatality rate in Austria is 13.4 per 100,000 (1999 figure), lower than in Portugal (21) and Greece (20.2), similar to Spain (14.6), France (14.4), Belgium (13.7) and Luxembourg (13.5), but significantly higher than the rates in Ireland (11), Italy (11), Denmark (9.7), Germany (9.5), Finland (8.4), Netherlands (6.9), Sweden (6.6) and Great Britain (5.9).

I haven’t driven much in the rest of Europe, so I can’t draw any conclusions about how they drive in other countries, relative to Austria. I’ve driven a little in Greece, but only on small tourist islands; I would describe the roads there as quite scary. I suspect if one were able to factor in road quality, the Austrian death rate would look worse.

Consider the fatality rate for Germany: 9.5, significantly lower than the rate for Austria, although I suspect road quality is similar, as are many cultural factors, including aggressive driving habits. So why is the Austrian rate higher than the German one?

It may have to do with the weather or lunar phases – sometimes people seem to drive fine here, at other times, such as yesterday, they all seem to go nuts at once. It’s not a fair generalization, nor maybe even accurate, but yesterday I was thinking they drive like Germans, only without the discipline.

Example: They like traffic circles out where I live. Now, bear in mind that most Austrian drivers have attended mandatory driver’s education training, which is expensive and lasts weeks and weeks. They learn all the laws, including right of way, including on traffic circles. Still, people occasionally act as if they’ve never seen one before. I pass through three of them on my way home from work. A guy zoomed in front of me on the first one, forcing me to slam on my brakes. I thought, gosh, that makes me mad. At the second one, a woman did the same thing, only worse. I honked, she waved, I employed sign language. It didn’t help my mood. I thought, if this happens again, maybe I should shout something in English. A long time ago, some therapist recommended I do that to let off steam, if you can believe it.

Later that same day, driving my oldest daughter somewhere… music school it was, a young woman does it again. I’m on the traffic circle (i.e. have right-of-way) she zooms in front of me, and slams on her brakes because traffic has stopped in front of her. Since I want to exit, but she is directly blocking my way, I am also forced to slam on my brakes, and come to a stop so close to her she couldn’t open her door if she wanted to.

So I hollered. I’d forgotten that I could holler so loud. In the middle of my outburst, although I was doing the red-face-eyes-bulging-why-don’t-you-learn-to-drive-aspersions-on-your-character thing, I at the same time was co-existing in this bubble of calm and clearly noticed that time had stopped. Traffic was jammed, everyone had turned their attention to me. They could hear me through rolled-up windows over their air conditioning. Heads were turned in all cars, worse, diners at the nearby McDonalds set down their plastic forks, salad speared on the tines and watched. People filling their tanks at two nearby service stations briefly stopped to watch.

“Dad, can’t you just yell like other people?” my daughter asked.

Time started, cars moved on, I proceeded. In Austria, they can press charges if you yell insulting things at someone. I wondered if anyone had gotten my license plate number. I could always argue that they had misunderstood my English. Alternate, similar-sounding phrases rolled through my head.

I was not proud of myself. Especially in front of my kid, losing it like that. “She was the third one to do that to me this afternoon,” I said.

“She can’t help that.”

“Whatever. Still, she’s lucky. The fourth one gets dragged out of their car and beaten.” Yeah right. The fourth one will be a weightlifter or karate instructor, I think.

“How ’bout you just take their license number and report them?”

“Good idea,” I acceded. Still. Some days. It hurts to realize you’re a moron. But still.

10 responses to “Anger management

  1. I once gave the driver of an 18-wheeler the finger, for driving one inch behind my bumper, both of us doing 70.
    What a mistake. Imagine my relief, when an exit ramp finally offered itself to me, the almost-crushed-like-a-bug motorist. My poor little car that never knew it could do 90 was happy, too.

  2. Here in the U.S. for about five minutes in the ’80s it was all the rage to carry little flip-signs you could hold up and show to people in other cars with pre-printed messages on them, i.e.: ‘Your Driving Sucks’, ‘How long were you in prison?’, ‘Madonna In Trunk’, etc.. I think its popularity waned when a few times the response turned to gunplay though…

  3. Mig

    I drove delivery truck a couple summers and try to be nice to truck drivers etc. I figure they’re just working men doing a job. Of course there are exceptions.

    Joeri, that’s a very funny animation. It reminds me a lot of Austrian drivers, though. Or maybe Viennese drivers. Viennese drivers of Mercedes, to limit it to the most hated group of drivers in Austria.

    I suspect Italians would drive like that, but haven’t witnessed it in Austria – maybe the visiting Italians are on their best behavior; maybe it just doesn’t stand out. Maybe it’s a southern Italian thing.

  4. Wow, that’s really something. I thought Phoenix was bad, with their 10 per 100,000 or whatever it is this year. I wonder what the drivers-per-capita numbers are like in each of those countries. (In Phoenix, it’s probably 1:2 like the rest of the country – except for San Francisco, Chicago, and New York where it’s more like 1:100.)

  5. Bauke

    “lower than in Portugal (21)”

    I know.

    Portuguese drivers scare the shit out of me. Friday- and Saturdaynight are the worst, because besides driving like idiots, portuguese people also like their wine and afterdinner alcohol.

    I’m getting my driverslicense here. (SCARY!)

    A few years back I was thinking of getting my Motorcycle license too, but I’ll never, ever go for it in Portugal.

  6. Mig

    Heh. I thought of you when I saw those statistics. I have my Austrian license (couldn’t just transfer my US license and had to attend expensive driver’s education classes for several weeks – after getting the license I wrecked two cars…). I’ve also given up the idea of getting a motorcycle license.

  7. Huh. We (in Ireland) are always being told that we have, like, the worst road-safety figures in the world. EVER.

    It must be like that town that has “the highest concentration of bars in the whole-wide-world-even-including-that-place-in-Russia-where they-nurse-their-babies-on-vodka”. Y’know, that town that every country has.

  8. Mig

    I think I should repost this at . Andy, I found Irish drivers very polite in general, although the roads in the west *were* very fucking scary, narrow and lined with briars and stone walls, and the mad farmers and the dump trucks zooming out of the gravel quarry. And, ahem, the American tourists getting used to driving on the left side of the road.

    And the cows sticking their heads into the window of our car.

  9. bauke

    I remember a few friends of mine that went to england, rented a car and had some trouble with driving on the left side. After a few days though they were used to it. Or so they thought, untill they took a roundabout the wrong way round…. :-)

    No traffic, so it wasn’t that bad. It was just that they only realised it 2 meters up the road… :-)