By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Don't hit others with your cane

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It was hard to suppress a smile at our recent story about a fight between two men from Sheridan and Willamina. Physical assault isn’t funny, I know, but the report of the 69-year-old striking the 19-year-old with his cane brought all kinds of cartoon images to mind.

Whatever happened on the roadway, the two drivers pulled onto the shoulder for a personal confrontation. The older driver threatened his adversary with a shovel handle before they were separated by other motorists, but they returned to combat.

Our story gave this description: I’m replacing names with ages to avoid further embarrassment:

“As (69) was driving away, (19) kicked the door of his vehicle. (69) pulled over again, got out and struck (19) with his cane, knocking him to the ground. (19) got to his feet and punched (69), knocking him to the ground. Motorists separated them again and called 911. Both drivers refused medical treatment.”

Road rage, of course, is not a comedy, especially when the consequences are injuries or even deaths.

In March, two women, aged 53 and 27, were arrested on I-5 south of Portland after their road rage episode caused a collision with a van carrying eight people. Seven in the van were treated for minor injuries, and the two women were cited on charges ranging from assault to reckless driving, from criminal mischief to felony hit-and-run.

Last month, a Hillsboro teacher, age 62, was arrested on charges of assault and reckless driving after he punched out a 17-year-old driver in a roadside confrontation. The older man was placed on administrative leave from his job working with emotionally disturbed high school students; the young student from the same school district was justifiably shocked at who assaulted him.

The most common causes of road rage, according to the Oregon Trucking Association, are tailgating, flashing headlights, honking horns, excessive speed, improper lane changes and driving too slowly.

The obvious advice is, don’t do those things. And when someone else does, assume it’s not personal, turn the other cheek and, says OTA, “let it go.”

The driving behaviors that cause road rage also result in highway crashes. Oregon’s latest statistics for 2011 show crashes up 11.5 percent and injuries up 15 percent from 2010. Roadway deaths, while 4.4 percent higher, were 27 percent below the 455 recorded in 2007.

It all reinforces what the old TV police sergeant told his officers every morning: “Let’s be careful out there.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@news or 503-687-1223.

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