My naive psychology of traffic violence

You’re in a crowd somewhere and large, 64-year-old dude begins to yell antagonistically at you from across the room. You try to be cool and ignore him but your adrenal glands automatically squeeze their juices in response. Your body prepares for fight or flight by increasing heart rate, respiration, and diverting blood flow to the muscles by restricting blood flow from other parts of the body such as digestion and higher brain function.

[ Note: This “BE UNSTOPPABLE” graphic is not an ad, as you’ll see below. ]

The Unstoppable Ford Edge

Faster than you can realize what’s happened, Mr Dude runs at you and body slams you into the wall. You’ve been physically assaulted. Unless you can exercise an atypical level of self-control in spite of your reduced brain function, your lizard brain really wants to hit the guy back. If police arrive before people break up the fight, both of you might get arrested, but you’ll likely won’t be charged because the other guy was the aggressor, and, after all, you responded in self-defense.

Now imagine if you’re charged with assault, the aggressor isn’t arrested at all, and the story in the local news frames the aggressor as the victim. How would you feel?

I mention this because of this morning’s discussion on Twitter about a pedestrian on the sidewalk in Greenwich, CT who punched the 64-year-old driver after the unnamed motorist (driving a Ford Edge Crossover SUV, advertising slogan: “Be Unstoppable!”) ran into the pedestrian and knocked him to the ground.

Nobody condones slapping a senior citizen, of course, but I’ve been hit by cars and completely understand the pedestrian’s response. The adrenaline surge is fantastic when you’re physically assaulted by a body slam or by two tons of metal and plastic. I feel myself sliding quickly to Hulk-mode madness, with a tremendous degree of self-control required to prevent an in-kind response to my assailant. The assailant, of course, doesn’t understand my agitated , because in our culture these things are “just accidents.”

Our friend in Greenwich was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Breach of Peace among other crimes. The news story doesn’t mention if the unnamed aggressor even received a traffic ticket for running over the pedestrian.


  1. Wait, he was walking *with a bicycle*? Of course he deserved to be hit, because, you know, bicyclists run stop signs. The driver clearly didn’t do anything wrong because he stayed at the scene and wasn’t driving drunk.

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