Road Ragefreeway Sound Barrierssound Barriers

Freeway sound barriers are one of those good-ideas-gone-bad.  I live near a freeway which is being rebuilt with sound barriers. The traffic noise isn’t reduced, as much as it just shifts to a different level of noise. Instead of hearing vehicles zooming by as a kind of ‘white noise’, I now hear a tunnel-sounding roaring echo.  And I can always hear the thunderous passing of a big rig and trailer.  Additionally,  for some strange reason, some of these truck drivers also feel compelled to honk their booming horn as they drive past.

There’s also a psychological link between a driver and their vehicle. The car becomes an extension of the driver, and this Big-and-Bad metal encasement imparts a kind of ‘protection’ around the driver. In face-to-face encounters with others, all you have is your usual vulnerable body, so you have to be polite and bite-your-tongue about what you say and to whom. In a car, people feel invulnerable, with metallic heft and speed on their side. They feel “protected” enough to take out their rage and even prejudices, against the people in the other vehicles.

Add to that the fact that a lot of people don’t get enough or quality sleep at night (too many energy drinks?), and are probably always running late. Perfect recipe for road-rage, whether sound barriers are present or not. To these people, their vehicle is not just a protection-encasement, it’s also a battering-ram.  Or an excuse to bully other drivers, who Mr. Road Rage thinks are holding him up, or hindering him from getting wherever he needs to be on time.

Suddenly the fast-lane isn’t fast enough, or slower vehicles are taking too long moving over to the slow lanes. So Mr. Road Rage starts passing on the right, or speeding up to 90 mph to get around a line of slow-pokes in their proper lanes.  This is behavior that endangers everyone.  But tired and cranky Mr. Road Rage takes it personally that he can’t fly down an unobstructed freeway, because other drivers don’t recognize his Me-First-Or-Else attitude.

And zeroing in on other drivers, feeds Mr. Road Rage’s prejudices, even if that other driver is driving in the correct lane at the posted speed.  “Look!  She’s got a cell phone stuck in her ear!”  or “Look at what’s driving – Figures!” or “THAT driver needs to stay on the feeder road!” or “Where’d they get their driver’s license?  Sears and Roebuck?”

Sound barriers are indeed not living up to their promise of quieter traffic.  But drivers who are constantly in Road Rage Mode, need to be dealt with too.