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, 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 its opposite.

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. 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.

Please post your ideas in the comments below.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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