Friday, February 5, 2010

To Stop Road Rage We Need a New Gesture

MOST FACE-TO-FACE encounters we have with strangers are very polite. But when two people encounter each other in their cars, you get road rage. Why is this?

A few months ago, I was watching the excellent program called The Human Face and the host, John Cleese, suggested it was because in cars we can't see each others' facial expressions. If we saw each others' faces, would it stop road rage?

Since we can't see our faces, the solution to road rage seems obvious: Someone needs to invent a new gesture. It would be so useful, its meaning would quickly spread and it would very quickly be universally known and used, stopping a great deal of road rage in the world.

Specifically, we need a hand gesture that means, "Oops! I'm sorry." We already have a hand gesture that means, "You did a bad thing and I don't like it!" It is universally known.

I thought at first I could just look it up in my Dictionary of Sign Language, but the sign for "I'm sorry" is making a circle over your chest with a fist. That won't work. You can't signal someone in a car behind you using that sign. You can't stick your hand out the window to make the gesture.

I thought of using the peace sign (two fingers in the air) but through the back of a car window it might easily be mistaken for giving someone the finger, and that won't help. And even if it is correctly seen, it might easily be misinterpreted to mean, "Calm down," or "You're making a big deal out of nothing," which could actually cause road rage rather than stop it.

I'm calling on all you inventive people, or anyone who knows other forms of sign language. Let's put an end to road rage, or at least greatly reduce it. What we need is a gesture that can be made with one hand stuck out the window, and is easily distinguishable from the birdie, so it cannot possibly be mistaken for it. If you have an idea, or if you come up with one, send us a photo or video of it, and we'll post it here.

Think about what a difference it would make to you if you saw someone do something that could easily be construed as hostile or incredibly stupid but then they signalled you that they know they just made a mistake and they are sorry about it. Or think about what a relief it would be to have made a mistake yourself while driving, and to be able to communicate to the car behind you that you know you made a mistake and you're sorry about it.

This simple thing could really make a big difference on the road. Think about it and then post your ideas below. Or just launch the campaign on your own and let me know about it and I'll help you promote it.

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