A popular radio host was shocked after he was harassed, intimidated and attacked in a ‘shocking’ attack on the road.
The popular radio host said he was shocked after a “shocking” incident on a road in the South Highlands last year, during which he was harassed, intimidated and attacked.
ABC Illawarra radio host Nick Rheinberger was driving a teenage family member home around 7:30 p.m. on September 7, 2021, when they pulled up to an intersection near Mittagong.
After he stopped to give way to another car, Reinberger realized he was hearing screams.
“I rolled down the window and it was clear I was being yelled at from the car about what a terrible driver I am. And it went on and on,” he said.
When he failed to turn on, a car pulled off the intersection in front of him and both cars continued in the same direction on the Old Hume Highway. Still offended by the radio host’s seeming disdain, the driver of Holden Commodore, who was in front, slowed down to provoke him into overtaking.
“It was clear they wanted me to pass them and I just thought, ‘They are going to pass me or something,’” he said.
Wanting to avoid a confrontation with the child in the car, Mr. Reinberger swerved off the road only to find that another driver had cut it, followed suit, overtook him and parked at the intersection.
The driver, 34-year-old Janiell Johnson, got out of the car to confront the radio host.
“This young woman… was moving as if to say, ‘Come and get me,’” he said.
Not wanting to expose his passenger to potential violence, Rheinberger decided to bypass Johnson by standing in the middle of the road.
“She tried to put herself in the way,” he said.
As he drove by, a shocking thud sounded from the rear of the car, which Reinberger hoped would put an end to the heartbreaking road rage incident.
But when he left the house half an hour later, Holden’s commodore was waiting for him.
“The same car pulled up behind me, flashed its headlights and beeped. And I thought, “That’s funny,” Reinberger said.
When Johnson blocked his path, separating them by less than a meter, Reinberger realized that the nearest open police station was two cities away.
He drove to a gas station, where he knew there would be lights and security cameras “just in case,” and parked.
“Her car squealed and parked right in front of my car, she got out and just started insulting me,” he said.
“I have never seen anything like it. It was really shocking.”
Mr. Rheinberger stepped back inside and watched as Johnson kicked the side mirror out of his car. According to police evidence presented to the local court, she scolded a radio host for nearly running her over.
The radio host then began filming Johnson as she yelled insults at him, and CCTV footage shows her approaching him and knocking the phone out of his hands. As he leaned over to retrieve his phone and keys, police evidence shows that Johnson stepped on his phone and pushed him away.
“I had no idea why she was doing this,” he said.
Mr. Rheinberger returned to the gas station to call triple 0 while Johnson stood at the door to stop him from leaving. She left before the police arrived, but later told the police that she only wanted to talk to the victim about his driving style.
The radio host said he was “really really shaking” after the road rage incident and was particularly concerned for the safety of his family. He admitted that he felt vulnerable while driving his car, which he temporarily swapped with a friend.
“Sure, I was very vigilant for a couple of weeks,” he said.
“I had a couple of weeks where my eyes were completely clear of this particular machine.”
The Moss Vale Court was told that Johnson lived with bipolar disorder and had previously been in a major car accident that had a profound effect on her.
Mr. Reinberger acknowledged that mental illness played a role in Johnson’s intense bout of road rage.
“I know that the verdict spoke of some mental health issues. I hope that whatever comes of it, she will think it over and get good help,” he said.
“Obviously, such a reaction is abnormal and unstable.”
Mr. Reinberger said the incident showed a lack of mental health services for those in need.
“If you have a broken leg, of course you go to the hospital, but if you have uncontrollable anger, you can’t,” he said.
“Medical resources are not enough, especially in the regions. People are suffering everywhere.”
Johnson was sentenced to Moss Vale Court, 24 May. to an 18-month community correctional order and 75 hours of community service. The St. Andrews resident was also banned from driving for at least 12 months.
Mr. Reinberger said he hoped never to be in a similar situation again.
“The less anger in the world, and especially on the road, the better,” he said.