Panic-buying fuels road rage incident near Stansted Road Shell and increased calls to Hertfordshire and Essex police
Motorists are being urged to "calm down" as worries about petrol supplies fuel incidents of road rage and increased calls to police.
The warning from both Hertfordshire and Essex forces follows a flood of calls to their control rooms from drivers complaining about being stuck in traffic.
In an incident outside the Shell Oaklands Park station in Stansted Road, Bishop's Stortford, on Friday evening, a woman was threatened by a man trying to negotiate the lengthy queues that had built up around the fuel stop.
The man shouted at her to move out of the way before leaning through her driver's door window, snatching the keys out of the ignition and throwing them into a hedge.
Bishop's Stortford's Insp Mark Collins said the abuse was directly linked to the panic-buying of fuel.
The woman was driving out of Stortford towards Stansted at about 9pm when she was forced to stop by an oncoming silver Toyota Corolla overtaking stationary traffic in a queue for the Shell garage.
"Her path was blocked by a vehicle on the wrong side of the road," said Insp Collins.
"A male passenger in the car then got out and started shouting at her to get out of the way, swearing at her.
"He lent through the window and pulled out the keys, snapping them in the lock and throwing the remainder into the hedge."
Insp Collins appealed for witnesses to the incident.
"It's fuel-related – the car was driving on the wrong side of the road to go round the queue to the station. Everyone just needs to calm down.
"We're also getting calls to say roads are being blocked. Queues outside petrol stations are not something to phone police about unless it becomes a safety issue or there's a public order offence. People have to accept it's a challenge at the moment and to remain calm."
His comments were echoed by Essex Police, which received more than 100 calls to its control room over a 24-hour period from people saying they were stuck in traffic. It also reminded people not to abuse staff at petrol stations.
Chief Superintendent Jenny Barnett said: "I want to thank the majority of the public who are buying petrol when they need it and remaining considerate and calm.
"We understand being stuck in a queue is frustrating, but our 999 and 101 numbers need to be kept for reporting emergencies and information about crimes or incidents.
"If our call handlers are dealing with calls about traffic build-up, they’re unable to take calls from people who really need our help.
"And no matter how exasperating it might be to be waiting in a queue, there's no excuse for abusing staff at petrol stations, who are just trying to do their job in difficult circumstances.”