Fighting road rage: Electronic roadside boards with ‘nice’ messages to be tested

Either driving standards are slipping in Australia, or people are snapping more easily.

Whatever the truth, road rage incidents in the country are apparently growing at such a rate that one state — New South Wales — has decided to take a somewhat novel approach to tackling the problem.

The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA), similar to the AAA, is asking drivers in the state, which includes the city of Sydney, to suggest upbeat “courtesy messages” that it will put up on giant electronic roadside boards in the hope that it might encourage motorists to drive with more care and attention.

Drivers can suggest messages through social media sites like Twitter or at forthcoming public meetings, an ABC report said this week.

The courtesy campaign, launched this week, comes following recent news of an NRMA survey which found that 40 percent of motorists in New South Wales have been the victim of verbal abuse by other drivers, while 21 percent have been threatened or even physically attacked. Looking at these road rage statistics, perhaps the sooner the highways are ruled by self-driving cars, the better.

“We have carried out surveys for many years now right across Australia….and motorists are telling us that it’s becoming a growing concern,” said NRMA president Wendy Machin.

She added, “We want to put positive messages on these signs that are encouraging people to drive a bit more courteously.

“We’re asking the driving public to be part of that, to tell us what they think might make us a little bit happier and a little bit nicer on the roads, and we’ll put some of those ideas up on these big signs.”

As part of its campaign, the NRMA has released a driving etiquette guide (pdf) that gives helpful advice on how you can avoid a situation which could ultimately end with a visit to the nearest hospital. It suggests drivers “give a friendly wave when someone lets you in” and also to “refrain from obscene gestures and verbal abuse.” Ah yes, the ol’ flipping of the bird, so often the precursor to a spot of wanton roadside violence.

If the messages on the giant electronic boards prove to have a calming effect on the short-tempered drivers of New South Wales, we might well see the idea rolled out around the world.

[Parking lot image courtesy of ARENA Creative/Shutterstock

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