Road Rage: What Happens When Drivers Snap

Saturday, May 24, 2014

As we head into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, one of the busiest driving weekends of the year, it is high season for road rage.

Just two weeks ago, a dashboard camera video showing a woman driving a pick-up truck swerve into another female driver on a San Diego highway went viral. Witnesses said the driver of the pick-up took both hands off the wheel to flip the other drive off. She was arrested on suspicion of reckless driving and assault with a deadly weapon and is scheduled to appear in a San Diego courtroom next month.

San Francisco-based psychologist Bob Nemerovski studies road rage and has first-hand experience with the phenomenon.

"I was driving home late at night and there was some guy. ... He was tailgating me and I got my exit and flipped the guy off," he said. "[He] chased me ... while waving a baseball bat at me through the window."

Nemerovski analyzes why drivers snap behind the wheel and how we can prevent road rage.

"We get into a little cocoon in our automobiles -- we feel safe, we feel like we have all the power of the car and we feel like we own the space in front of us," he said. "When someone tailgates us or cuts in front, I think that feels really threatening, almost as if someone's driving right into the front door of our home."

Nemerovski said there are ways for drivers to prevent road rage and cool off when things get too heated. First, he said, find your happy place before you get into the car.

"Go to the gym, go for a walk, get yourself calm," he said.

Then once you're in the car, find something soothing to listen to.

"Instead of listening to outrageous talk radio, listen to something that makes you more calm," Nemerovski said.

Once you're on the road, Nemerovski said remember F.I.D.O.

"When something happens and you start to feel yourself get upset ... use this mantra. I call it F.I.D.O., like the dog's name. Basically means forget it, drive on," he said.

One day, technology might be used to prevent road rage. Scientists at a university in Switzerland are working on software to be placed in the car that could help drivers keep their cool behind the wheel. The software, which is still in an experimental stage, is made to recognize facial expressions like "anger" or "disgust." This equipment built for monitoring drivers could lead to the car itself slowing down or playing soothing music.

But road rage isn't just unsettling, it can be dangerous, and even life-threatening.

Police in James City, N.C., say Bradley and Christy Turner of La Grange, N.C., were driving their Toyota SUV on U.S. 70 in the James City area on March 24, 2013, when a Chevy pick-up may have cut them off.

Josh Berry, who was 20 at the time, was driving the pick-up, as his two friends Nathan Brotzman, who was 21 at the time, and Shaylee, who asked that her last name not be used, were inside. Berry said suddenly Bradley Turner drove up to them.

"He got up beside me, leaned out the window, pointing at me, saying he's going to kill me," Berry said.

The Turners tailed the young trio as their 4-year-old sat in the backseat, and the chase went on for 30 to 40 minutes. Berry said he tried to lose them but they followed him all the way to Brotzman's driveway.

"When we see him get out of the car, I put the truck in park, turned off the keys, turned to Nathan and said, 'I guess he's really going to walk up here,'" Berry said. "And when he walked up, I just looked at him, said a couple of words, threw a punch and it was on like Donkey Kong."

In that moment, Berry's friend Shaylee started videotaping with her cell phone camera. The video shows that after Berry threw a punch, Turner went down and his wife got out of their truck and handed him a pistol. Turner cocks the gun and it accidentally goes off. The video cuts out after that.

"All we heard was click, click, click," Berry said.

"I was honestly scared for my life. After those clicks my heart dropped. Everything got real after that," Brotzman said.

Police say Turner eventually pulled away from Brotzman's driveway, but then he circled back and fired shots into Berry's empty pick-up. The Turners turned themselves in and are now facing a whole litany of charges.

Police said they did not charge the young men because they were defending themselves.

"A lot of people are saying, 'you should just put the phone down and call the cops, do the right thing,' But it's like, if you're in that predicament, what are you going to do? You don't know," Berry said. "It's the heat of the moment. Your adrenaline is going, you're not going to think right, and we defended ourselves. That's what we did."

The case is still making its way through the court system and Bradley Turner is now looking at spending up to four years in prison if convicted, all because of road rage. Back in March 2013 Turner first plead guilty. His attorney, Roger Crowe, told ABC News that the court process was still ongoing.

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