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ROAD RAGE: Is it in you?

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

As compelled as I've felt to write this commentary, I've been procrastinating for weeks. It's like scheduling a root canal; you know how important it is but just can't seem to find the time.

Having only been stationed at Schriever since November 2003, I haven't experienced a lot of Highway 94 driving. Compared to others who have worked out here since dirt was discovered, I'm rather green but have seen my share of near-disasters: Drivers tailgating so close I can see the bugs on their bumper in my rear view mirror; drivers passing me on solid yellow lines while I'm traveling the speed limit; drivers literally racing to the top of Garbage Hill in the passing lane and then squeezing out drivers who need to merge.

Notice the common word in those examples: drivers. I wish I knew what jobs they have, where getting to work 37.2 seconds faster than me brings them such joy.

Don't get me wrong--I enjoy the job I have, but I would crosstrain quicker than a rat on a potato chip if I was guaranteed their job.

When you consider Highway 94 is a two-lane road, the blinding morning sun glare, tired shift workers, large trucks and school buses entering and exiting the highway, and everything else distracting you then you understand that adding aggressive driving to the equation doesn't compute.

Aggressive drivers need to realize the dangers they pose to other motorists. Perhaps instead of drinking from the Fountain of Knowledge, they only gargled.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site, aggressive driving is the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property. It also reports aggressive driving can easily escalate into an incident of road rage.

Once, a driver, who obviously had the attention span of Daffy Duck when the two-second rule was taught in drivers ed, tailgated me for miles.

He eventually had enough and illegally passed me, racing off into the sunrise toward the base. Because he hit a red light at Curtis Road and Highway 94, we found ourselves staring at each other at the Enoch Road Gate.

Looking back, I should have held my tongue; but since I was feeling froggy, I made a sarcastic comment. The guy began yelling and proceeded to get out of his vehicle with the apparent intent to make my children fatherless. He was in no danger as I don't whup anyone until I've had my first cup of coffee ... (translation: good thing the 50th Security Forces Squadron was there for me!).

What if he "blows a gasket" on Highway 94 at 60 mph while following a young Airman with two toddlers in the back seat? Or tailgates someone who doesn't like it and who solves the problem by intermittently slamming on the brakes. Yeah, that'll teach him ... and send somebody to Boot Hill. Not sure if you have aggressive driver tendencies? Review the following questions found in the Colorado Drivers Handbook.

Do you:
1. Mentally condemn other drivers as incompetent and stupid?
2. Make negative comments about other drivers to those riding with you?
3. Close up space to stop others motorists from merging or changing lanes?
4. Tailgate a driver to get them to speed up or get out of your way?
5. Angrily speed past another driver?
6. Make an obscene gesture at another driver?
7. Pursue another vehicle to express your anger?

Answer yes to even one question, and you qualify as having aggressive driver potential. I must admit having that potential after giving honest answers to the first two questions.

So what are our options to avoid this label? The CDH suggests you leave a few minutes earlier, play music you enjoy, keep your cool, and let drivers merge even if they've done something stupid. If none of these work for you, puh-lease do us all a favor and ride the bus!

What should you do if faced with an angry motorist? A simple raise of the hand in a sincere, apologetic gesture often defuses the situation. Is giving an apology so difficult when compared to the negative outcomes that are possible? Remember that spending mere seconds involved with an enraged driver can change your life and the lives of those riding with you forever.

Road rage and aggressive driving are two traits the DOD can do without. Military personnel, government civilians and contractors are all teammates, and as such, we should all strive to be patient and courteous to each other on the road.

A little introspection to correct dangerous driving habits that endanger or provoke other motorists will go a long way to ensure individual safety and mission success.

The CDH tells us sharing the road means "getting along, not ahead." Indeed, words to live by.