How to move past a road rage incident?
December 13, 2016 5:03 AM   Subscribe

In short: I made a mistake merging onto the motorway yesterday and kind of cut a woman off. She followed me and when I stopped at a stop light, she jumped out of her car, threw my door open and screamed at me. I'm shaken. How can I make peace with this stressful situation?

The longer version is that I was merging onto the motorway and saw a car in the right lane that seemed to be moving over into the left to let me on (or so I misjudged). I merged, but it seems there was some other car screaming up in the left lane which boxed the woman in the first car in. Tires were screeching, but thankfully an accident was prevented.

I feel awful. It was a stupid mistake and I mouthed apologies when both cars drove past me later and honked and gestured. However, this woman seems to have followed me (on purpose? accidentally?) and when I got off the motorway and stopped at a stop light, she got out of her car, stormed over to my car, threw open my door (I was too flustered to lock it) and screamed at me - obscenities, that I was stupid, that she had kids in the car, that I was a bitch, etc. She hit my arm, but not hard enough to cause a bruise. The whole time, I pretty much just apologised. She slammed my door, stormed back to her car. And didn't follow me when I turned.

I'm really freaked out. I was so stupid to pull on. Why did I do that? My kids were also in the car and the accident that I almost caused would have been so horrible. I feel terrible that I clearly put her in a situation that made her terrified. I'm worried that she'll attack me again - the incident happened close to my home and my car is fairly recognizable.

I'm usually a careful and conscientious driver. I haven't been in so much as a fender bender since I was 17. I'm torn between feeling horrible about my slip in judgement, compassion for the woman who I'm pretty sure was pretty scared underneath all her screaming, and angry that she scared me and my kids (and taught my 4 year old some new words, it seems). And worried that something like that might happen again.

So, how do I make peace with this? How can I trust myself and strangers again? (Ok, maybe that's a little excessive - but I am disappointed in myself and shocked that someone would treat me -anyone- that way)
posted by brambory to Human Relations (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry you had to go through an experience like that! It sounds really pretty terrifying, and entirely inappropriate and criminal. I think time is probably the cure that will help you trust yourself and strangers again. I wonder if making a police report would help set your mind at ease? I think it would be entirely appropriate in this situation, especially since she hit your arm. I doubt that much will come of it, but it might make you feel better. I have mini-versions of this feeling every time I make a mistake and inconvenience someone in traffic, and when others drive rudely around me, I try to remind myself that I'm not a perfect driver either, which helps, somewhat.
posted by tybstar at 5:17 AM on December 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

You misread a traffic situation and were chased and physically assaulted because of it. Fuck feeling bad, you could have called the cops on this maniac.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:18 AM on December 13, 2016 [138 favorites]

Report it to the police for a start. You are the victim of a violent assault. It's not "road rage." It's assault and battery.

You made a fairly minor mistake. You didn't cause a collision. You apologised as best you could.

Violent assault is a serious crime, and you are the victim.

(I can't work out which country this happened in - you say 'motorway' which is a left-side-of-the-road word, but the way you describe the incident makes it sound like you're in one of the right-side countries. But that's irrelevant.)

You are the victim here. You have a right to feel outraged and angry. Violent assault is never acceptable. So, feel outraged. Be furious. Report it if you feel that's appropriate.

But hold tight to the fact that you are the victim of a tremendously rare event of a violent person tailing you and initiating a violent assault.

It's very unlikely to happen again.

If there's any chance of identifying your assailant or her car, consider reporting it. She'll do it again. She's probably done it before.
posted by Combat Wombat at 5:19 AM on December 13, 2016 [31 favorites]

I'm coming at this from the perspective of a) someone who has had plenty of "whoa shouldn't have done that" driving moments that turned out okay and no one got hurt, b) someone who frequently gets mad at other drivers' inconsiderate behaviour and c) someone who is the child of a mother who once followed someone home when they cut her up on a roundabout (UK) and berated that person in front of both parties' children.

Mistakes on the road definitely happen, and it's fortunate that this one didn't cause an accident. No one got hurt and you've learnt something about interpreting other drivers' behaviour when you're merging and making extra sure before you move into the lane you're aiming for. This is where most of the lesson in this situation is, as far as I'm reading it.

It is natural (for some people, at least) to get mad at other people's driving behaviour. People are lousy at optimising for everyone, and tend to optimise for their personal preferences - sometimes one driver really can cause the whole road to back up, and that sucks. It's okay/normal to be mad in that scenario (or a scenario like yours where someone has done something that could have been dangerous but ultimately everyone dealt with it okay on the road in the moment), but personally I think it's wildly inappropriate to have any interaction with the other driver about it beyond acknowledging it in the moment. Maybe rude gestures if you really have to. Definitely not following someone to berate them in person later. I would not consider that normal or acceptable behaviour with strangers, no matter what they'd done to me. It might make you feel less ashamed/anxious now to frame this action as something that says so, so much more about the other person and their state of mind than it does about you or your behaviour.

My mother following someone home when I was younger and yelling at them in front of me/my sister/their kids basically only taught me fear. Every time I do something less than perfect to another driver on the road, and every time I feel like someone might be following me rather than just ambiently driving behind me, I become convinced that they're following me on purpose in order to threaten or berate me when I get home. Even though there was a gap of more than a decade between seeing my mother do that and learning to drive myself. It's worse when it's dark and it's obviously a dude behind me (I'm a woman) and I know my partner isn't home, as I really fear for my ability to assert myself if an angry man decides to follow me home and start yelling. It's a non-trivial source of anxiety for me twenty years later. I would encourage you to talk to your kids about what happened and the fact that it's not normal behaviour and it's not a good or useful way of expressing frustration that happens on the road. I would have appreciated someone saying this to me (especially because my mother was the perpetrator, not the receiver).

But yeah, you already know what the lesson here is, the other person's behaviour was out of line and I think the best things you can do now are to not normalise it (especially for your kids) and not let it shake you up too much. It's not a referendum on you as a person or a driver, nothing bad actually happened, you'll be more careful next time and the other person did a shitty thing when they took out their anger on you personally. You're good.
posted by terretu at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

Recognize that the emotions you feel are totally valid and appropriate. You were put in a traumatic situation with a person who was clearly out of control, and that is not because of a slip in judgement- her behavior was the slip in judgement.
posted by momochan at 5:20 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Don't beat yourself up about it. It was a mistake, we all make mistakes and fortunately this one didn't have any serious consequences. You'll also bear it in mind when merging in future and will be extra careful.

No doubt the other woman was upset and freaked, but there's no excuse for her hitting you. You might also want to think about driving with your doors locked so someone can't fling the door open again.
posted by essexjan at 5:22 AM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Maybe it's because I live in New Jersey but the merge incident doesn't sound that horrible. I see things like that regularly on my roads. What I don't see is people hopping out of their cars and assaulting other drivers.

File a police report. Lock your doors when you drive. I'm sorry this happened to you. Your reaction to being assaulted is absolutely normal and I hope you feel better soon.
posted by sockermom at 5:34 AM on December 13, 2016 [15 favorites]

Agree with all the great advice here. You made a mistake, but luckily there was no harm done. It happens, you're human like the rest of us. There are very few people who haven't done something similar, including, most likely, that woman.

But, the difference between your behaviour and hers is that yours was accidental, whereas she took a number of deliberate steps to frighten you and your children, and possibly harm you. I'm sure her getting out of her car in the middle of the road interfered with other traffic, as well. This kind of intimidation and assault falls into an entirely different category from misjudging a traffic situation. File a police report, if only to show your children that behaviour like that is not normal and has potentially serious consequences. It is not okay, and anyone who witnessed it would probably feel the same.
posted by rpfields at 5:42 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Everyone's going to misjudge a few times while driving and all you can hope is that it doesn't lead to an accident, which here, it didn't. You were lucky nothing happened, yes, but you're not exactly at a high risk of it happening again(some people would see the lack of a car crash as a sign they did nothing wrong, I'm serious).

But what it did lead to was that woman committing a crime. She uttered threats and harassed you and got into your physical space(I mean, I've encountered roadragers, but OPENING YOUR DOOR? Holy shit). I'd highly suggest reporting this if you feel like you have the strength. She most likely has already or will soon do this to someone else. Even just giving out a description of her car, age,hair color, and race to give some identifiers for this woman would help if she's ever reported again(or has been before).

I'm so sorry this happened to you. Good luck and be kind to yourself.
posted by InkDrinker at 5:46 AM on December 13, 2016

I'm worried that she'll attack me again - the incident happened close to my home and my car is fairly recognizable.

I don't think you have to worry about that. An over-the-top reaction like this isn't really about you or what you did. She was a loaded gun with a hair trigger, looking for an excuse to go off.

This was not your fault. I know that it can be difficult to admit that to yourself because if it's not your fault then there's less you can do to avoid similar experiences in the future, but -- really -- this was not your fault. Thankfully it was also a freak event, and you don't need to be on guard against such behavior all the time. You can't un-experience it, but try to see it for what it was.
posted by jon1270 at 6:09 AM on December 13, 2016

You may have made a driving mistake; the size of it none of us was there to judge.

This other person chose to assault you, and abandoned her kids in a car to do so. The technical term for that type of person is "flaming asshole." You get to flush their opinion of your driving like the steaming turd that it is. And yeah, I'd consider reporting them.

When you've calmed down, feel free to rationally take stock of the incident and what you could have done differently (e.g., I forgot to check my blind spot, or whatever.) That's just sensible personal management.

But the fear and violation you feel? That's not your fault. That is entirely due to the asshole, whom you are entitled to write off as such. (I realize it's not as easy as just deciding to do that, but you should work to that state. "Be kind to yourself" is the perfect advice.
posted by stevis23 at 6:14 AM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

Driving mistakes happen and people being angry and flipping the bird or yelling out the window is somewhat normal pressure release from the immediate stress. It's also normal that you are shaken after the mistake and for good reason - I bet you'll be more vigilant when merging for a good while.

But what is totally crazy is that this person followed you, opened your door, yelled into your car, and hit you. Don't feel bad about her, she's lucky she met you who was a doormat instead of another lunatic who fought her to defend themselves. Report the incident as assault.
posted by WeekendJen at 6:40 AM on December 13, 2016

Take some time to talk to your child about the incident. Finding the right words to explain it to a 4 year old may help you better make sense of the whole thing.

I was in a situation where I was very aggressively followed while my 3 year old was in the car. He asked why someone was honking and, in the heat of the moment, I told him that a mean person was mad at me. It took me a few weeks to put two and two together and realize his new nighttime fear of "mean people" was related to that moment. After a nice talk about emotions and anger and healthy ways to get it out, we both felt much better.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 6:49 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a cyclist, I will often push against the "it was just an accident!" excuse that drivers sometimes use when they do something that endangers or hurts others. You're driving a 2 ton machine, behave accordingly, you know?

But the fact is that we *are* human and we do make mistakes. Your decision to lane-change when it wasn't clear based on the assumption the other driver was moving out of your way was definitely a mistake. If it had caused a crash, that would have been bad and it would have been your fault. But I bet - based on what you've said here - you won't do this again. And as you said, no one was hurt. It's not exactly "no harm, no foul," more like "no harm, i've learned my lesson and will behave differently in the future, no foul." This is fine!

What is not fine is that this person followed you, got out of her car, and literally assaulted you - PHYSICALLY TOUCHED YOU. I've been in car crashes or near-crashes before and I get that adrenaline can and make people super keyed up. I've yelled at the other driver immediately after a car crash, which I'm not proud of. But it sounds like this person had plenty of time to cool down but instead chose to maintain and stoke her anger and then actually assault you. That's super messed up and not your fault.

I think your steps to get past this are:
1. Think about what you did wrong in the original situation and plan out how you can make different decisions in similar driving scenarios in the future. Visualize yourself in that situation behaving differently. What would that look like? Would you brake to fit into a spot behind the other car? Speed up to get into a space ahead of the it? What made you feel like you had to merge right then and there - is it a challenging merge with cars moving at top speed and other drivers behind you pressuring you not to slow down? I wonder if maybe thinking through how you can manage that kind of driving situation better would help you feel more empowered that you won't have to worry about this happening again.
2. Remind yourself that how this person reacted is never, in any circumstance, okay or effective. Her yelling at you didn't change that there was almost a crash. It actively made things worse (especially with kids in both cars!) and that is on her, not you.
3. Maybe try to cultivate sympathy for her? She must be really on edge to have reacted that way to this incident. She may even feel really, really shitty about how she reacted and can't believe she let adrenaline and anger take over her rational mind to that extent. Or, she's not at all self-aware and you can feel sorry for her that she probably lives a life full of these stressful, awful confrontations.
posted by misskaz at 7:01 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Accept that you're going to be freaked out driving and merging for a while. Build a little more time into your schedule for car trips if you can, to reduce stress. And I hate to say it, but "hit my arm but not enough to cause a bruise" means you got lucky, when it comes to another driver opening your car door and assaulting you. You're going to be thinking about the incident anyway, so while your brain's obsessively rehashing, figure out how you could keep yourself and your kids safe in a similar situation. For me, that's a) always locking my doors, and b) remembering that my car is both a vehicle and a weapon. If someone comes up to it with violent intent, even if I've been at fault somehow in aggrieving them, my plan is always to drive away to someplace well-lit and public. If I have to use the mass of my vehicle to extract myself from a dangerous situation, I'm mentally prepared to do that (and hopefully, not freeze due to social conditioning - although I've never had to test that one).

Also I keep the CO number for reporting road rage incidents programmed into my phone, and have used it. Dunno if your state has one.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:07 AM on December 13, 2016

Go to the police station immediately!

What you describe is assault and you should file a report, and press charges if later you can identify the car or woman, AND especially if she cuts you off in the future or chases you down again. Note her license plate, although even with just the make and model the police might be able to track her down today. They probably won't bother, but you never know.

What you describe is assault. It's a felony. She threw open your car door and assaulted you.

This almost exact thing happened in a parking lot to me 11 years ago, I still regret not pressing charges. The officers who arrived asked me if I wanted to, and I was in such shock that I just let it go. And then I spent the next 4 days in bed with bruises and confusion + depression. Years later, I know now I was in shock from the assault and not thinking clearly.

Go file a report today, even if nothing comes of it. Do this for yourself. Don't delay. *HUGS*
posted by jbenben at 7:11 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just want to add that I am from NYC and now live in LA, and you will be doing that woman's children a favor if you report this.

She either needs an intervention or she's going to get herself assaulted or worse. Attacking strangers is a recipe for Bad Things. She attacked you. The next person might fight back, y'know? What she did was HIGHLY unusual. Report her for her own sake, for her children who don't deserve to be in a car with someone that risky and out of control.
posted by jbenben at 7:16 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

A few years ago, me and my ex were driving to work and ended up in a proper road rage confrontation. It was a similar situation to what you describe--a minor miscalculation on our part that only became a problem because the other person was not practicing good defensive driving and zigged when she had indicated she was going to zag.

We stopped at a red light and she got out of her car to come scream at us about almost wrecking her mother's car and she threatened to hit me and made gestures like she might, but ultimately she did not, and got back in her car and left. (My screaming back something along the lines of "I hope you fucking do hit me so I can sue your yuppie pants off, you lunatic" may have had something to do with this; also, the light had turned green.)

As you might expect, I thought more about this interaction later in the day. This lady was driving her mother's car FAST in the direction of a nearby hospital. In my most generous imaginings, I had decided that maybe this lady had a sick mother in the hospital and a lot of other stress in her life and for whatever reason just didn't have good enough emotional coping mechanisms to deal with this in a way that didn't involve her dumping the full weight of her frustrations out on a stranger over a minor inconvenience.

She was already so amped up about other things, I'd decided, that she just could not emotionally handle another stressor, and this near-miss on the road with me must just have been the thing that broke her.

It is rare that anyone who is not already anxious or stressed to the breaking point would let something so minor as a near-miss traffic snafu become their hill to die on (possibly literally--what if I'd had a gun in my glove compartment or something?? so unsafe!) I would suspect that your traffic road rage lady has a lot on her plate and made of you a convenient target for her to vent spleen on.

This means that, really, anything would have set her off. Cars can make people especially tense, and some folks take being cut off very personally. This is very much NOT your fault, and I hope you don't take it as an attack against you personally--this woman was VERY clearly in the wrong and assaulted you over an almost-accident (not even an actual accident!) because she lacks the ability to self-soothe. You were the victim of a CRIME here when she struck you; nothing you did should have provoked this reaction.

The thing about emotional crescendos like this is that you really do tend to feel better afterwards, even if the stresses that led to the freak-out are not any better. I would not fear any long term retaliation from this lady--she let off her steam whistle, and that is probably all that she required from the exchange. (Although if you see her car ANYWHERE near your street in the future, I would absolutely call the cops.)

I am sorry you had to deal with this, and I hope that when the shock wears off that you're able to think back on this without guilt. That emotion shouldn't belong to you!
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

the difference between your behaviour and hers is that yours was accidental, whereas she took a number of deliberate steps to frighten you and your children, and possibly harm you.

Exactly, it's worth noting the difference here. I am not sure if you maybe grew up in a family where people would give you a hard time for no reason other than their own fucked-up mindset, but I did. And it takes YEARS to get over that "This person is incredibly angry at me, therefore I did something to deserve that." feeling

Someone starts yelling in my general direction and my first thought isn't "Wow that person is having a really hard time" or "That person seems really angry" but it's more like "What did I do?" followed by "Am I in danger?"

So, people are telling you here that while there were things you could have done more mindfully, that does not at all mean you deserved to be actively harassed and, yes, assaulted. Even if that woman was afraid, she crossed a line. So for you, you can commit to maybe a little more mindfulness in the car (maybe turn off the radio, make sure you're fully consciously driving, put phone in glove box, whatever) and for other people I'd just get a little bit more solidly in the "What that woman did was totally not okay." camp.

I've been in minor accidents before, minor accidents that were my fault, minor accidents that were my fault AND where there were kids in the other car (everyone was fine), and no one assaulted me or even yelled at me. The fact that you were (maybe) inattentive does not mean you deserved what happened. There are other ways to be human than what this woman did.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 AM on December 13, 2016 [21 favorites]

If you are now gun-shy about merging, I suggest getting some blind-spot mirrors for your side mirrors. Also make sure you know how to adjust *all* of your mirrors properly. Might as well take the opportunity to brush up on that.

To echo what's been said above, this was not a normal reaction. This woman committed a crime and was trying to exert power over you.

I have had angry drivers stalk me and accost me for scenarios ranging from me obeying simple traffic rules (not turning on left red arrow) to brushing against a car door with my shopping cart when it got away from me. None of these people were expressing fear -- they took my action/inaction as a personal offense. For example, when I apologised to shopping cart guy immediately (and sincerely), he continued to yell in my face. I point-blank asked him what he wanted. My insurance info? Another apology when I already admitted I hadn't been paying attention? When I told him I wasn't going to grovel or pay for damage to his car that clearly didn't come from me, he just sort of... deflated and slunk off. Some people only want blood.

And that's what happened to you. This woman likes to be in control and your mishap didn't so much put her in danger, as it did (momentarily) rob her of control. And that made her furious. Not a nice person and I'm very sorry this happened to you.
posted by Wossname at 8:07 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

What you did was a mistake. What she did was a crime.
posted by cecic at 8:39 AM on December 13, 2016 [25 favorites]

These things are very jarring. It was an upsetting incident for more than one reason. A near miss-- or not so near miss, but any potential accident-- will keep replaying in your mind for a while, reminding you of how life could change on a dime at any moment. Plus when someone reacts out of proportion like that, it's very weird and embarrassing, even if it's not threatening, which here it sounds like it was. When an experience is sort of complex and intractable like that I find it helps to take pen and paper and do a brain dump. What are ALL the things this brings to mind, no matter how silly they seem? You're not going to put your finger on the one thing that's bothering you, because there are probably a number of them, on different levels. But taking time to set them all forth helps, I find.
posted by BibiRose at 9:23 AM on December 13, 2016

Here's a surprisingly thorough help sheet for Coping with Emotional and Psychological Trauma. Any event that spikes your adrenaline can cause post-trauma symptoms like you are describing, like perseverating on these questions:

Why did I do that? My kids were also in the car and the accident that I almost caused would have been so horrible. I feel terrible that I clearly put her in a situation that made her terrified. I'm worried that she'll attack me again - the incident happened close to my home and my car is fairly recognizable.

You made a minor driving mistake. Millions of minor driving mistakes are being made every second, and the entire driving infrastructure is designed with margins in place so they are mostly correctable without incident. Assault is never an appropriate response to one of those mistakes. Assault is not an appropriate response to being frightened. You did not deserve what happened to you.

[This woman should be looking out her window waiting for the police to show up for her at this point. Assaulting you again would be an exceptionally poor decision, even worse than getting out of her car in the street to assault another driver and their children. You should file a police report for a number of reasons, several of which are related to that person's future safety, not to mention other drivers she might assault.]
posted by Lyn Never at 10:22 AM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Others have already said to talk to the police. Do so. For all the already-explained reasons.

So you made a mistake. You realize you made a mistake. You feel awful that you made a mistake. You don't have a habit of making mistakes. You're trying to figure out how to not make more mistakes.

I'd say that puts you in the top, what, maybe, 10% of all drivers out there. If only our roads were filled with such people, the world would be a better, safer place. I would happily drive on a road with you any day.

Instead, I see distracted people veering into my lane, holding a cell phone in one hand, or other dumb things There are a bunch of them that probably don't belong on the road at all. They can't grasp that they're driving a multi-ton death crusher. They can't be bothered to notice that someone's merging, and what the effects of that will be. They're not paying attention to how what they're doing affects anyone or anything else.

Forgive yourself (even though I don't think you should need to) and move on. Oh, and, please don't get shy about merging. It is something that naturally needs to be at least somewhat aggressive.
posted by jgreco at 10:41 AM on December 13, 2016

This is the kind of situation where EMDR could be really helpful. It's designed for this kind of event. It can help drain the energy out of it. You can look at the Psychology Today web site for people who do EMDR in your area. Or you can look at the EMDR web site. I really would recommend it. It would take only two or three sessions.

This is a freak event that's unlikely to happen again. I think your focus should be on managing the trauma and getting help in not having merging become a thing for you. You didn't deserve to be assaulted and she obviously has something going on other than being upset at your driving. We all do stupid things while driving and the best thing to do is to have it be a reminder to be careful out there.
posted by orsonet at 11:27 AM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

hey, when I was in high school, they taught us "defensive driving". She was fully cognizant of the situation -- she was better equipped than you were to avoid any accident, and she did. Good for her. Defensive driving.

Bad bad bad on her to take out her residual fear on you. This was no one's fault. Not yours, not hers, maybe that third driver you described who may have been breaking the law by speeding. That's the person everyone should be scared of.

But I mean come on. You were as scared and freaked out as she was. You too had children in the car. She created trauma for you, your children, and her children. The kids wouldn't have noticed it until she made a deal out of it. AND GETTING OUT OF HER CAR TO ASSAULT YOU? Now everyone is scarred for life. Oh, except for the person driving the car in the left lane and going too fast. That person is completely oblivious.

If you need any more sane people to tell you that you're did the right thing, you've got one in me. That would have pissed me off so much that I would have gotten out of my car and fucked her the fuck up. (Not having children myself, I think that would be an awesome example for children.) Luckily neither you nor I live in open carry states. Because it sounds like this woman would have shot you down on the motorway out of stupid blind rage. Is that sane? NO. Just keep remembering that. Remember that she's crazy and you're sane. And remember that you and she are the same size. She's only louder and crazier than you, not bigger. Remember that the reason that we are larger than housecats is that if we were smaller they would play with us until they killed us. Remember also that the reason housecats don't have opposable thumbs is that they would find and use weapons on us if we didn't give them treats. Also think of all the stupid reasons that you would beat someone up if you weren't sane, like WHY DIDN'T YOU CLOSE THE TOILET? or THE PERSON WHO USES THE LAST OF THE COFFEE MAKES ANOTHER POT, NUMBSKULL! Her reaction is just like that, only she decided to confront you.

Oh, and if any of these hypotheticals give you comfort, you could also listen to Sword & Scale's road rage episode. If you find these hypotheticals horrifying, don't. For god's sake do NOT listen.
posted by janey47 at 1:51 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

To feel more comfortable driving you could try some online driving tips videos that feature various scenarios that can be problematic. Maybe before you turn the key to start the car say a positive intention or prayer to yourself to focus. I look ahead at least 1/2 mile and try to gauge what is going to happen, it really has improved my driving. I also watch all cars in all directions and can now almost instantly spot the driver who is going to cause a problem before they do, there are some common patterns of shitty drivers and watching for them will improve your own driving.

Meditation really helps me when I'm super anxious about an unexpected problem, maybe could help you calm down. It would be a good idea to talk to your kids who had to witness the situation about--what? Crazy people? Personal safety? I don't have kids so not sure how but it would be helpful for them to process it a little together.

That said, you made a minor mistake and it happened to be to an insane person. There is no justification to excuse her actions, which were assault and battery in my locale. I nth that you go to your police dept or the PD in the area it happened in, and make a report. She may have done this before/will do it again/you could run into her again and she might want to pick up where she left off. You could also ask the police officer what you should have done to prevent it and once she went off what is the safest thing to do? (I expect they'll say DRIVE AWAY FAST to the police dept or a safe public place).

I am so sorry this happened to you and most especially with your children present. That is seriously messed up. You were wrong in your merge, she was batshit crazy and violent to boot. No comparison imo.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 5:18 PM on December 13, 2016

In what way did you make a mistake? It seems to me like the other car "screaming up" on the left was a bigger cause of the problem.

And I support all the others who say that your mistake was minor and accidental, but hers was criminal.

Be at peace; all shall be well.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:20 PM on December 13, 2016

I'm a little shocked at how unanimous all the "SHE COMMITTED ASSAULT CALL THE POLICE NOW" answers are.

I feel for you; we've all been there (at least those of us who drive).

I would look at it from her perspective. She's also completely shaken and freaked out. She realizes that she had a violent reaction. She's probably telling her friends what happened and saying, "I can't believe I screamed and hit this woman. It was like my rage just took over. I kept imagining my kids getting killed by this person's carelessness." And her friends are telling her, "I understand. You were terrified. It was unexpected. You overreacted in the moment."

It takes a little time to get over these things, but if you can stop replaying it in your mind, and acknowledge that both of you made mistakes but luckily nobody got hurt, you will move past it.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:02 PM on December 13, 2016

I would look at it from her perspective. She's also completely shaken and freaked out. She realizes that she had a violent reaction. She's probably telling her friends what happened and saying, "I can't believe I screamed and hit this woman. It was like my rage just took over. I kept imagining my kids getting killed by this person's carelessness." And her friends are telling her, "I understand. You were terrified. It was unexpected. You overreacted in the moment."

Wow, that's a lot of positive assumptions you're making for this person. It wasn't an overreaction in the moment, she either followed OP purposefully, or happened to be going the same way, and let this rage build up to the point where she physically assaulted someone. That's not normal, nor is it a mistake.

OP, however, did make a mistake. You know what would have been an appropriate reaction that mistake? Yelling "Pay more attention!" at them. I'd even forgive a middle finger. But equating an attack with a careless mistake is way off base.
posted by blackzinfandel at 7:03 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would also add that not all of us have been in this situation, because it's not normal. Don't normalize this kind of behavior.
posted by blackzinfandel at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah, no way do you need to be making excuses for her or trying to see it from her side. Just no way!

She put her children in more jeopardy than you ever did when she left them alone in her vehicle while she went to physically attack another driver. The cops need to be called for her kids sake if nothing else. Road rage is as dangerous to the enraged person (and everyone in their vehicle) as it is to their intended victim.

Im really sorry this happened to you!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:42 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thank you so much for all of you who answered. You've helped me reframe the situation and I'm feeling less freaked out about it. It was a very good suggestion to talk with my son. We talked about it after the incident, but I brought it up again today so I could reiterate that what she did wasn't right and that most people don't respond that way. It's ok to make mistakes, and people shouldn't attack you for it.

I appreciate all the suggestions to go to the police. I'm in the Czech Republic and am not exactly fluent in Czech. I'll talk to my husband and friends and see what they think about whether the police would be interested.
posted by brambory at 4:46 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I should also perhaps add that I will be extra careful about merging in the future and have decided to avoid that particular on-ramp from now on (it involves entering traffic from a full stop while going up a hill, there's always a lot of traffic and it isn't easy to see very far in the distance). Thanks again
posted by brambory at 4:54 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

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