“Here we go!” she yelled. “Whoo-oop!”
Their heads snapped back like marionettes on a single wire as the car leaped ahead and curved retchingly about a standing milk-wagon, whose driver stood up on his seat and bellowed after them. In the immemorial tradition of the road Anthony retorted with a few brief epigrams as to the grossness of the milk-delivering profession.
The Beautiful and the Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922
Road rage is usually perceived as a modern problem, possibly caused by our fast society, the way violence is depicted in entertainment and the media, and an increase of vehicles (and therefore drivers) on the road. But surely tempers were frayed by inconsiderate and untalented drivers long before car stereos were blasting the merits of beating other drivers to death with baseball bats?
Road rage... is that you that gave me the finger?
Road rage... how come you won't you turn off your blinker?
You shouldn't drive like that!
I've got a baseball bat!
Road Rage, Jimmy Fallon, The Bathroom Wall album
The “tradition of the road”, in which Anthony lets loose and tells the milkman what he really thinks of him, must have started even before cars were invented if it had already been deemed “immemorial” - the novel was published in 1922, and the first Model T Ford had only come off the factory line 14 years earlier. So we need to look at the roots of road rage lying in the good old days of the horse and carriage.
Although one website (www.DrDriving.org) states that road rage was a problem even in horse-and-chariot Roman times, the first anti-road rage laws were passed in the 19th century, reportedly in an effort to stop drivers from "barreling home" and getting into altercations in their horse-driven carriages after a big night at the local tavern (www.DrDriving.org).
Murder on Bligh Sreet – Carriage driver arrested
Mr Thomas C. Pilner, a local hansom cab driver, was yesterday murdered in the street after quarrelling with another cab driver.
According to Mrs Muriel Cuthbert, a minister’s wife shopping for a new bonnet in the street at the time, the incident occurred when Mr Pilner urged his horses to accelerate around the corner of Bligh and Snetton Streets. As his animals complied, his carriage ran in front of another cab, which teetered as its driver attempted to manoeuvre out of the way.
“There was a tremendous shout - such foul language! – as the driver tried to right the carriage,” Mrs Cuthbert said. “As soon as his horses had settled, he turned and chased the other driver. Now I do believe I’m in need of a sip of brandy.”
Other witnesses stated that upon the second cab driver reaching Mr Pilner’s carriage, he pulled alongside and shouted at him. The men called out to each other, using language not suitable for the ears of the respectable society members present in the street, and came to a halt in front of Deacon’s Confectionary.
There, the men exited their carriages and engaged in fisticuffs.
The local constabulary was called but by their arrival at 1.14pm Mr Pilner was deceased. The second carriage driver was arrested for murder.
Mr Pilner is the third man to have been assaulted as a result of violence between carriage drivers this year.
New York Times, May 15, 1895
Okay, so I made that up. But there is this excerpt from a letter which Lord Byron wrote to his good friend Thomas Moore in 1817 ...
Last week I had a row on the road with a fellow in a carriage, who was impudent to my horse. I gave him a swinging box on the ear, which sent him to the police, who dismissed the complaint.