440: Road Rage

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Road Rage
Okay, now just as the loss hits him, slam on the brakes.
Title text: Okay, now just as the loss hits him, slam on the brakes.


Road rage refers to aggressive behavior exhibited by (usually angry) motorists towards other people on or near the road. It can take the form of excessive honking, uncharacteristically aggressive driving, and using obscene gestures or language, among other behaviors.

In this comic, Black Hat is driving a car, and Danish is with him in the passenger's seat. Black Hat gets annoyed because the car behind him is "tailgating" (following too close behind Black Hat's car).

Danish decides to fight back, but rather than engaging in typical instances of road rage, she turns on her laptop and finds that the car behind them also has a laptop running. Since the cars are so close, the other laptop is well within WiFi range, so she manages to establish a WiFi connection with the laptop in the other car. Then, Danish finds a security hole (in the comic, a "remote exploit"). She uses it to break into the laptop and install a speech synthesizer. This means that the laptop in the car behind just starts saying words at Danish's will.

The driver of the other car is puzzled when he starts hearing a voice. He is completely clueless about where the voice comes from. Also, because he is driving alone, he is probably frightened (or nervous at least) to find that someone is speaking inside his car. The "shot in the dark" is the gamble that this statement is meaningful to the tailgater. In order for it to psychologically impact the driver, he would have to have either been involved in someone's death, or have known someone who died in a way that he blames himself for (or could be convinced to blame himself for), and that person would need to be female for the "she" pronoun to work. There are a large number of different ways this phrase could be meaningful to a person, ranging from actual murder to being involved in an accident to simply losing a loved one in a way he feels he could have prevented. Danish obviously keeps the accusation vague to maximize the odds of it impacting the tailgater, but the odds are still relatively low that it would be meaningful. Despite the poor chances, this appears to land, as the tailgater is evidently impacted by the disembodied voice blaming him for this unspecified person's death.

In the title text, Danish continues her revenge, asking Black Hat to slam on the brakes. So-called "brake checking" is a common (though highly unsafe) method of road rage against tailgaters. At minimum, it forces them to abruptly decelerate and hopefully frightens them, but the danger is that they don't have room to stop in time and cause a collision. The joke is that, having already achieved a complicated and psychologically painful form of revenge, Danish wants to follow it up with a much more conventional form at the worst possible time. Since it is commonly believed that the blame for such types of accidents will always be given to the driver of the car behind, and since we know Black Hat is a sadistic bastard, Black Hat would no doubt enjoy adding both the blame and the traffic accident on top of what Danish has already accomplished. This may seem ironic, as Black Hat and Danish would be risking having their own car struck, but they would no doubt rather make an example than avoid the accident.

In truth however, while many jurisdictions do have a presumption that the rear driver is at fault in the event of a rear-end collision, that is only an initial presumption that can be rebutted by the facts of the case. Deliberately slamming your brakes for no good reason except to cause a traffic accident is illegal in virtually every jurisdiction, and that would be more than sufficient to defeat the presumption.

If this happened in reality, then assuming Cueball and Black Hat both had sufficient legal savvy to argue their cases properly, Cueball would at worst have partial responsibility for the accident due to his tailgating. Black Hat would have either partial or whole responsibility for the accident, he would be convicted of reckless driving and intentional collision, and he may be investigated for possible insurance fraud. In addition to the legal consequences, Cueball, Black Hat and Danish may also experience some combination of fractured bones, spinal injury, and brain damage due to the level of force typically imparted on both cars in such crashes. In short, this is much more physically and legally hazardous for Black Hat than popular perception tends to believe.


[Black Hat is driving, and Danish, who seems to be his equal, is in the passenger's seat. They are closely followed by some other vehicle.]
Black Hat: That guy's tailgating me.
Danish: I'll take a look.
[A car is shown to be closely behind Black Hat's car.]
Danish: His laptop's running, probably in the back seat. And... yup, the WiFi autoconnects.
[Close-up of Danish using a laptop.]
Danish: Now we just scan for remote exploits... install speech synth... And take a shot in the psychological dark.
[Cueball's car.]
Laptop: Hello.
Cueball: What? Who's there?
Laptop: She'd be alive if it weren't for you.
Cueball: ...Oh God.


This may be a continuation of 433: Journal 5, with Black Hat taking Danish to the "date" that was mentioned.

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Incomplete (as of August 26, 2013)
  • At the title text Black Hat is avoiding a crash.
  • While many explains are monster explains, here is the WIFI missing, this explain is just more a transcript.--Dgbrt (talk) 21:44, 26 August 2013 (UTC)

The idea is that the tailgater (I'll name him Phil for ease of understanding) will be distracted while he contemplates his loss, so when Black Hat slams on the brakes, Phil hopefully won't have enough stopping distance to avoid a collision, slamming into Black Hat's car. The accident is always caused by the car behind, meaning Phil will be at fault.Lyusternik (talk) 15:26, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Okay, I've been bold, completely rewrote the explanation AND removed the incomplete banner. It now looks less like a transcript and (I think) everything is covered. 17:28, 19 February 2014 (UTC)

Whew, I've been more offensive than Black Hat in the past and I'm still happy today that I did survive this. I did not slam the brake, no stoplight, just releasing my foot from the gas pedal at high speed and my car slowed down without any warning to the one behind me. There was happily no accident and NEVER TRY SOMETHING LIKE THIS. But after this incident the guy did slam his own brake and he never did try to overtake me again. --Dgbrt (talk) 21:36, 2 June 2014 (UTC)

In light of the last paragraph of the explanation, I wish Randall's drawing made it clear whether BH and Danish were wearing seatbelts. 19:45, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

I think that Danish does not survive the accident that she provoked with her message to the tailgating guy. This is a very nice example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.-- 14:28, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

No one tried to guess at why the shot in the dark worked? I thought it might have something to do with the fact that tailgaters tend to be reckless drivers and he had caused someone to die before due to his reckless driving. flewk (talk) 17:56, 28 December 2015 (UTC)

Revisiting this comic after watching 13 Reasons Why really gives you a new view on the whole thing. I wonder if the book, or indeed any specific work, was involved in Randall's creative process for this comic, or if he just pulled the idea for the guilt trip out of thin air. 06:53, 7 January 2018 (UTC)

Why does the transcript include the phrase "who seems to be his equal" in reference to Danish? That seems like a weird thing to include. DownGoer (talk) 02:53, 30 August 2023 (UTC)