‘I was dealing with an enraged animal’: the road rage epidemic taking over Australia
Hardly a week goes by without road rage making headlines somewhere in Australia. All-in brawls, rage-fuelled attacks, and weapons of all kinds. Our roads are busier than ever – with people rushing to work, hurrying home, and endless traffic jams, it’s the perfect recipe for conflict.
Steve Bloor is a grandfather and a veteran truck driver with more than thirty years experience hauling loads around Australia in his B-double. In this time, he’s witnessed increasing aggression on the roads – but he says that there’s one trigger that’s all too common.
“Merging, merging is a big one. Just common courtesy on the road, and people merging aren’t allowing the vehicle that’s in front of them to merge in, therefore they have virtually pushed their way into the lane, which aggravates the person they are merging in on – and next thing you know, it’s on.”
On May 11 this year, Steve is travelling along a busy Sydney road called Forest Way. Ahead of him are two vehicles: 20-year-old New Zealand-born Chances Moana is driving his uncle’s ute, and retired computer programmer 63-year-old Andrew Nerlich is in the other car.
Andrew merges left, colliding with Chances’ ute. “I thought, ‘Okay, it was a minor fairly minor collision at that stage,’” Andrew recalls. “I thought we’d go through the lights and park at the side of the road and exchange details, like civilised people do. But he pulled in front of me at the lights.”
Chances pulls open the driver’s side door of Andrew’s car, and violently punches the elderly man with immense force. Steve, watching from behind in his truck with his dash cam rolling, witnesses the confrontation.
“He’s knocked Andrew out, and therefore Andrew’s put his foot on the accelerator and ran into the back of the ute,” remembers Steve.
Chances is furious, believing Andrew has rammed his ute on purpose, and moves back in to unleash a barrage of 15 punches in just six seconds on the older man as Andrew struggles to protect himself. Chances calmly returns to his ute and slowly drives away.
Amazingly, although still dazed from the onslaught, Andrew manages to get out of his car.
“Part of me thought, ‘Well, I’ll get out of the car just show people I’m not dead,’” he explains.
Steve jumped from his truck and went to help Andrew. “[He] looked like he had been taken to a baseball bat, if you ask me.”
Andrew suffered severe facial lacerations, a badly damaged eye and a cut to his lip that required stitching.
Steve’s dash cam video helps police identify Chances, and a day after the attack he turns himself in. He is charged with two counts of assault and ordered to appear in Manly court.
Yet at the hearing, Chances fails to appear. In his absence, he’s convicted of the brutal bashing of Andrew Nerlich in the road rage attack. A warrant is issued for his arrest.
Sometimes, the videos that capture these violent attacks don’t always tell the full story. On July 24 last year, Clint Pollard is on his way to the beach to take his dog for a swim. In the car behind him is Bianca Sams in the passenger seat, with her girlfriend Taylor Bembridge driving and Taylor’s baby in the back seat.
The speed limit drops from 80 km/hr to 60 km/hr, and Clint says as he slows down, but the car behind isn’t happy.
“I looked in my rear vision mirror and there’s people waving their arms around, tooting their horn, flashing their lights, going off their heads, and I think, ‘Oh shit, these guys must be in a rush.’”
Bianca explains the experience from her own perspective. “I was on my phone so I wasn’t really concentrating on what happened, and then Taylor overtook him and it all started from there. She tapped her brakes a couple of times and that probably agitated him a bit more, and then he tried to run us off the road.”
Clint pulls out his mobile phone and starts recording as Bianca leans half her body out of the car and starts throwing things at him.
“It was a sheet of nails [and] she was snapping them off at four or five deep,” Clint recalls. “I was more concerned for the traffic and the people around me. I had an overwhelming feeling that something terrible was about to happen.”
Clint is right. The terrible event continues to unfold when Bianca and her girlfriend stop at the lights – Bianca gets out of the car, and Clint does the same.
“I thought, ‘I’m not gonna let this bastard come up to the window and do anything to me’, so I thought, ‘I’ll get out,’” Bianca explains. “I just thought he was going to yell at me, that’s all I thought.”
That’s not all that Clint would do. Shockingly, as their confrontation escalates, he punches Bianca Sams in the face. A king-hit recorded by another truckie at the scene, Dwayne Pillidge.
Once again, the video goes viral and a massive public backlash follows. This is the first time Clint has tried to explain, claiming he saw a chisel in Bianca’s hand. “I had no choice but to act in self-defence. It was between my welfare, my safety, or a psychotic person that’s trying to harm me.”
Bianca denies the allegation that she was holding a chisel. “I had nothing in my hands whatsoever. I crossed my hands crossed my arms, that was it.”
The altercation doesn’t end with the punch. Bianca’s girlfriend Taylor throws her car into reverse, and aims for Clint, attempting to run him down, only narrowly missing him.
Clint gets back in his car, but a kilometre down the road realises the women are chasing him. Now Bianca really does use a chisel – throwing it at Clint’s vehicle, and shatters his windscreen.
Video of the incident is soon online, and immediately goes viral. Clint Pollard pleads guilty to punching Bianca. He is fined nine hundred dollars. For her role, Bianca is doing 140 hours of community service.
In a coma for five days, the young man suffers from a broken pelvis, leg bones and knees, a punctured lung, and ruptured spleen, bowel and bladder – injuries which will require two gruelling years of recovery.
When he learns about the accident, the victim of Chances’ road rage attack, Andrew Nerlich, sends a touching video message to Chances in hospital.
“I just say to you, you have found out now that violence isn’t the answer. Fifteen seconds of rage and anger, they haven’t worked out for you very well. I really wish you all the best from here on in, good luck.”
Chances asks to meet Andrew to apologise for his actions face to face. “I’m sorry Andrew. I regret what I did on the day, it was unnecessary, doing what I did.”
Looking down at the battered young man in his wheelchair, Andrew doesn’t hold any grudges: “I had a bad day. I don’t think you had a very good day either,” he tells Chances. “I really hope you can get past this and do something really good and amazing with your life. I forgive you, and I really wish you all the best for the future.”
Reporter: Matt Doran
Producers: Rebecca Le Tourneau, Mick O’Donnell