Matt Kimberley profile picture Matt Kimberley a year ago 20

Vigilantism Is The Angry Driver's Curse We Could All Do Without

We've all felt like doing our bit to punish other drivers for real or perceived infractions on the road, but acting under the 'red mist' often does more harm than good

Remind me later

Not one of us who already drives can honestly say they haven’t at least thought about taking the law into their own hands. Many of us would admit to breaking the law ourselves to try to stop what we saw as unacceptable behaviour from others, or to retaliate for bad driving that annoys us.

Take the Vauxhall Insignia (above) that ran a red light in a right-turn lane and tried to cut into a straight-on lane. The ‘defending’ car may have been doing what the driver (and the rest of us) felt was right, but it ended up damaged.

Once I was being mercilessly tailgated by an old Ford Escort van in Carlisle, just south of the England-Scotland border. The youth driving it was so close behind my old Peugeot 206 GTI for mile after mile that I could have told you what colour his eyes were. So, when the road split into two lanes and he tried to overtake, I clogged the accelerator and cut in front.

It was childish, unnecessary and the net result was that the two occupants in the van spent a good five minutes trying to chase me down (and probably hurt me), until they realised that I was just going to keep doing my endless circles around one of the city’s main roundabouts and they wouldn’t be able to catch me.

But that’s nothing compared to the actions of two utter douchebags on the M62 motorway. We brought the story to you earlier this week, where a Kia Sedona MPV and a Ford Kuga between them blocked two entire lanes of the four-lane carriageway because they wrongly believed the outside two lanes to be closed. The signs were there (literally) and they failed to see them, taking the law into their own hands.

That held up hundreds of cars and created a traffic jam that was totally avoidable; it should never have happened. All because of two drivers’ bruised egos, believing that the following traffic was somehow trying to ‘cheat’ their way to the front of the queue.

Vigilantism Is The Angry Driver's Curse We Could All Do Without - Blog

In Britain it’s one of the most divisive issues on the road. When a lane is closed, do you get over to the open lane as soon as possible and wait in line, or do you use every available lane until they merge at the site of the closure? The British thing to do is queue politely, as everyone knows. But the correct thing?

The Highway Code isn’t as definitive as we’d like, saying that using all the lanes and then zip-merging is ‘recommended when approaching roadworks or a road traffic incident.’ The law on causing an obstruction is clearer. You can’t roll along lanes three and four while deliberately holding traffic behind you, no matter what your reasons or your imagined justification. Neither one of those muppets in this week’s video had any right to block lanes.

Vigilantism is a fact of driving life. Whether you’re just cruising to the shops or on a countryside blast, there are people who will get in your way, try to stop you overtaking, ride your rear bumper, drive 20 per cent below the speed limit, swerve between lanes without indicating, cut into lines after blasting down the wrong lane and any number of things that make your blood burn hotter than the depths of the sun.

Vigilantism Is The Angry Driver's Curse We Could All Do Without - Blog

Full, true autonomous cars that can tackle any and all roads are still a long way away, but they will eventually solve the issue. Of course, people will just end up venting their frustrations in other ways at other times.

But, speaking as self-acknowledged sinners on this front, we’re all better off if we don’t react to things we see as provocation. If there’s driving behaviour you instinctively want to punish, just try to let it go. Be defensive, but not aggressive. And most of all, just try to keep calm…