MOST FACE-TO-FACE encounters we have with
strangers are very polite. But when two people encounter each
other in their cars, it is more likely to involve yelling and
rude gestures, or worse. 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 road rage happens in cars because we can't see each
others' facial expressions. This gave me an idea about how to
stop road rage.
The solution to road rage seems obvious
now: 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, and it would probably and realistically
prevent most incidents of road rage.
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. And the gesture itself contributes
to road rage. But it would help stop road rage to have
I thought at first I could just look 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 escalate or even
create road rage.
I'm calling on all you inventive people,
or anyone who knows other forms of sign language. What we need
is a gesture that can be made with one hand, 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 on
this page and on the Stop Road Rage blog. If it's good enough,
I will start the international campaign right 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
seeing a sign 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 being
able to communicate to the car behind you that you know you made
a mistake and you're sorry about it.
This simple idea could really make a difference
on the road. Think of all the suffering we could prevent. Think
about it...and then post your ideas on the Stop Road Rage blog or send them to me at
Or just launch the campaign on your own and let us know about
it and we'll help you promote it.