By Ken W. Harrell, Managing Partner
In the March 21 edition of the Charleston Post and Courier, the front page article detailed a “road rage” incident which occurred between Craig Culpepper, an off-duty police officer from North Carolina, and Chad Walton, a Summerville man. The incident was filmed by Mr. Walton and has now been viewed by hundreds of thousands of viewers on You Tube. You can also see the video on a link at www.postandcourier.com.
In the video (which Mr. Walton also narrates), Mr. Walton complains about the police officer holding up traffic in the left lane. At one point, Mr. Walton passes the police cruiser on the right and shortly thereafter, the police officer speeds up and swerves in front of Mr. Walton’s truck, before quickly slamming on the brakes, resulting in a minor rear-end collision. Fortunately, no one was hurt. However, the fall-out from the incident has resulted in Officer Culpepper resigning from his job with the Onslow County, North Carolina sheriff’s department. In the Post and Courier article, a copy of Mr. Culpepper’s apology for the incident (which certainly seemed heart-felt and sincere to me) was posted.
It is beyond me to understand why “road rage” and “aggressive driving” appear to be on the increase but it certainly seems to be the case, based on my personal experiences on the road and the injury cases we are seeing at the Joye Law Firm. Some of the most common examples of this include racing, tailgating, swerving in and out of lanes, and aggressively refusing to let other vehicles merge into another lane of travel.
AAA reports that more than half of all traffic fatalities in the United States result from aggressive driving. People who engage in this behavior range from those who are careless to psychopathic. One cause that does seem to be consistent is traffic congestion. As our roads become more congested, people often lose patience and they forget the basic courtesies they should extend to other drivers. Knowing this, perhaps it’s no surprise that the incident between Mr. Walton and Mr. Culpepper occurred on I-526. I’m convinced that road is the “Bermuda triangle” of Charleston highways.
How do we avoid being the victim of road rage? Here are a few basic tips. First, if you are a slower driver, keep to the right. If you encounter an irate driver, back off and let it go – avoid eye contact and whatever you do, avoid a confrontation. Another category that is increasing is the number of people who carry guns with them and the last thing you want to do is to have a minor car accident escalate into something more tragic.
If you feel that you’re being chased or harassed, drive with the flow of traffic, call 911 if you can, and go to a safe, public place. Most of all, remember the golden rule that all of our grandmothers taught us, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” All of us have made mistakes behind the wheel. If someone cuts you off, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it was a mistake, instead of immediately escalating the situation into something requiring “revenge.” Remember the old Chinese proverb, “those intent on revenge had best dig two graves.” Stay safe out there.