rage is a term that we have all heard. It simply means getting angry
while you are driving and yelling/gesturing at other motorists or
pedestrians on the road. Road rage can be very dangerous - in other
words, it can injure or kill either the driver or another party.
Now, a scientific study has confirmed that getting in the car when
you are angry, or suffering from road rage could be putting your life at
risk. The biggest study of its kind found that 'emotional drivers' -
those who were clearly angry, sad or agitated - were around five times
as likely to crash as those who were chatting on their mobile, which in
itself can be deadly most of the time.
Overall, those overwhelmed by their emotions were 9.8 times as likely
to have an accident as model (well behaved) motorists.
It is hoped the finding, from an analysis of millions of miles of
motoring, will help governments, car manufacturers and drivers
themselves think about how to make the roads safer. To find out what is
behind the majority of crashes, researchers in the US fitted the cars of
more than 3,500 people aged between 16 and 98 with an array of cameras,
microphones and sensors.
A driverless car,for a world without accidents
The cars travelled 60 million Km and were involved in 905 serious
crashes. Most crashes involved driver error or distraction - mechanical
faults and flat tires were rare. The motorists were judged to be angry,
sad, agitated or openly crying on one in 500 journeys - increasing their
odds of a crash almost ten-fold.
This made driving while emotional more dangerous than driving while
drowsy, fiddling with the radio or air conditioning or chatting to a
passenger. Of course, drunk-driving, poor driving, sudden braking and
failing to give way, also increase the chances of a crash.
These findings perhaps add nothing new to what we already know, but
the value of quantified scientific research is that the data can be made
available to policymakers, car manufacturers and law enforcement
authorities to make our cars and roads safer. Computers and cameras on
board some cars can already alert the driver if he or she falls asleep
behind the wheel, but robotic intelligence is not yet advanced to
discern human emotions such as anger and road rage. Scientists are
likely to work on that aspect once they have enough data to make
effective software programmes to detect such emotions as well.
Still, the best way to avoid an accident is to stay away from the
wheel if you are angry or even sad.
If there is no one else to drive, it is best to calm down and then
take the wheel after a lapse of a few minutes. Otherwise, you are likely
to think about that row with the boss or colleague even when on the
If you get angry due to the actions of another motorist, it is
generally advisable to pull over to the kerb and let it pass. You can
also avoid situations where you may get angry - if somebody wants to
have his or her way on the road and especially if you are not in a
mighty hurry, just give that driver a minute of your time and let him or
her pass on. That way, you maintain your composure without becoming a
bundle of nerves.
Governments and law enforcement authorities must have more awareness
programs for drivers. "It is not obviously feasible to eliminate all
causes of driving distraction, but countermeasures such as driver
awareness, education programs, better enforcement of existing laws and
better crash avoidance systems on vehicles including automated braking
systems, could have a measurable impact," said the researchers.
But there is a seemingly drastic alternative - eliminate the human
The argument is that if the car drives itself using an array of
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other advanced technologies, most, if
not all, accidents can be prevented. There is some logic to this
argument. Machines never get angry, sad, tired, sleepy, nervous or
distracted. Moreover, machines can already see and hear better than any
human can. They will obviously not get any telephone calls while
driving. An AI system will be able to drive a car even for 24 hours at a
stretch without showing any sign of fatigue.
Driverless cars are already with us, though they are still being
tested on public roads. Most of them also have a human driver behind the
wheel in case the robot takes a wrong decision.
But many proponents of driverless cars say very soon, it will be the
other way around. Google has already simulated millions of hours of
robotic driving on real roads and on the computer, with only a very few
accidents. Most of them were also ultimately tracked to the remote human
operators. A world without accidents is an ideal scenario, but it is
very hard to imagine at present.
But a century from now, people will wonder what exactly we were doing
behind the wheel when the cars could do it themselves. We will not have
to wait for a century to see driverless cars, as Ford says the
technologies could be in place by 2020. But there is a whole host of
legal, regulatory, moral and technological problems to overcome.
Could the vehicles operate in all the various weather conditions that
we are used to? Will the sensors be able to detect any changes in the
road surfaces? What would happen if there was an emergency failure of
the autonomous technology? What would the vehicle be able to do? Will
they obey all traffic laws? Who would be responsible if there is an
accident? In an accident scenario where, for example, only the parent or
the child can be saved, who would the robotic car try to save? These are
questions for which no clear answers are still available.
But if technology can actually prevent accidents caused by driver
error and save thousands of lives, it will be worth waiting even a