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Amacam Blog 

APRIL 2016 

Why do drivers ‘Brake-check’? 

This morning, on my school run, a woman completely ignored the rules of the road and pulled out in front of me, I had no choice but to let her in and she didn’t even say thank you. So I sarcastically and calmly told her with no hope of her hearing that “of course you can cut me up, feel free to treat the whole road as your own”. What I did not do however, was chase her down, overtake her and then brake check her. Why did I feel the need to admonish her? I would never have said that to her face and what leads others to punish drivers far worse? 
 
I see hours of dashboard camera footage in my job and the one behaviour that stands out to me more and more is the “brake checking” driver who feels affronted and slams their brakes on in front of another driver to “punish” them, especially HGVs. Gone from their mind is the risk to their own lives, or the lives of the hundreds of other drivers and passengers behind who may be impacted by this irresponsible behaviour. Their only thought is their rage at the driver behind. 
 
But what makes normally sane people change so drastically as soon as they step in their car. 
 
Road rage is nothing new, in a 1950 Disney short animated film called Motor Mania a gentle Goofy turns into a monster behind the wheel, a Jekyll and Hyde story. https://youtu.be/hk-c5jlk48s 
 
Psychology studies show that people are most likely to more antisocial when they are anonymous and a part of a group, sitting cocooned in your car you are anonymous behind your windscreen but a member of a group in the traffic. Your normal means of communication have been removed meaning a polite, ‘I’m sorry’ is difficult to express when you know you have made a mistake. Finally, we are also more reliant on our gut reactions e.g. all cyclists are road hogs, women are bad drivers or hat wearers on a Sunday being slow. 
 
When you combine all these elements it is a perfect storm for people to lose all humanity and reason and act in a way they would never normally consider. 
Is there anything you can do? 
 
The risk of us turning into savage beasts is alleviated when we have a passenger, you are no longer anonymous and they may not take the same view as you even though they have the same viewpoint. 
 
Accepting that we all make mistakes is also a useful tool when considering the actions of others, if anyone ever tells you they are a perfect driver, then they are lying. 
 
But finally, it may be worth installing a dashcam, these tools could calm your own aggressiveness, watch near misses back on the footage and gauge your reaction in the cold light of day. 
 
But if you are a victim of brake checking, your dashboard camera will protect you and maybe even get the perpetrator off the road for a good long time and a chance to reflect. 
 
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