Nov. 21, 2006 -- If some idiot cuts you off in traffic, you know exactly what to do -- make an obscene gesture, right?
Two young entrepreneurs from suburban Washington had bigger ideas. They set up a Web site, www.platewire.com, where you can vent your spleen to the whole world.
Just log in, post the license plate of the offender, and you get to call him or her a p--. Or an a--. Or perhaps a f--.
If the site grows large enough, they hope, it will help to shame reckless drivers into driving more politely.
A Universal Frustration
"PlateWire was born out of frustration from years of driving alongside drivers who seem to have no concern with anyone's safety, including their own," wrote Mark Buckman and Luke Sevenski, stepbrothers who founded the site. "Report and flag bad drivers, award good drivers, and even flirt with cute drivers."
The Web site, they say, is not a substitute for the legal reporting of traffic infractions. They urge people to get in touch with police if they see something illegal.
Meanwhile, the PlateWire founders say they're getting up to 2,000 hits a day.
Some of the posts are rather matter-of-fact, such as this one from someone in San Bernardino, Calif., reporting a blue 1988 Chevy pickup truck:
"Became angry when I passed him. Followed me several miles. I made U turns, changed streets, etc. Remained highly aggressive and finally ran me off the road doing $1,000 damage to my car. Left the scene! Very dangerous aggressive driver."
Others were like this one, reporting a dark-blue sport utility vehicle near Upper Marlboro, Md.:
"This person has no regards to safety or even common sense. If you see this person avoid them, if you value your car or your life."
Giving In to Anger
Do visitors feel better after they leave posts? Probably not, say many who have studied the phenomenon of road rage.
"Venting is not such a good idea," said Leon James, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii who is co-author of a book called "Road Rage and Aggressive Driving."
"You're actually re-enacting the frustration, which only releases more of the stress hormones you want to control," he said. "You're creating an atmosphere that you're going to be a victim of yourself."
James has seen a Web site that sells placards one can hold up in traffic, such as "I Hope You Crash and Die!" and "Do You Know What a F--ing Blinker Is?"
He says people need to improve their "emotional intelligence" about behavior on the road.
"We need to teach drivers how to remain calm," he said. "If you're not calm, you drive less efficiently."
Police urge people not to get riled up by dangerous drivers.
Instead, they urge people to report them. Many states invite people to call #77 on their cell phones, a number specially set up to take reports on aggressive driving.
Buckman and Sevenski say their goal is the same, though they concede that they do not yet know of any bad driver who found mention of themselves on the Web site and slowed down.
"PlateWire intends to grow large enough to become a real deterrent to unsafe driving habits," wrote Buckman and Sevenski. "Our goal is to bring awareness to bad drivers so they become aware of the dangers associated with the aggressive driving they have become accustomed to."