Controlling Road Rage

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Wednesday 13th October 2010
In this article
  • Road rage explained.
  • Reading the signs.
  • Controlling your own rage.
Controlling Road Rage

Quick test:

  • Do you weave in and out of traffic, cutting other cars off as you try to get home from work?
  • Do you tailgate?
  • Do you shout obscenities at other drivers?
  • Do you think all other drivers are idiots?
  • Do you feel compelled to pay back a driver who has cut you off by doing something equally annoying to him?
  • Do you try to prevent a driver who is trying to get by you from doing so out of spite?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you (at least once) have been sucked into the phenomenon of "road rage."

You? But you’re a nice guy; why, just the other day you passed up the opportunity to embarrass your buddy in front of that woman at the bar…

But many of us can’t escape feeling road rage. With increasingly congested roads in the U.S., today’s drivers can’t help but experience aggression as they sit in traffic or negotiate busy roads. Read on for SharpTravel tips on making your drive-time more stress-free:

Road Rage Explained

Certainly incidents are extreme cases of road rage, but on an everyday scale, aggressive behavior by drivers is more common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 66 percent of all annual traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving actions, such as passing on the right, running red lights and tailgating. Any action, from speeding to rude gestures, is a form of road rage and can lead to more serious action or a violent interaction between two drivers. Ya never know whom you’re picking a beef with.

Reading the Signs

In his book Steering Clear of Highway Madness, Dr. John Larson claims that while women are more likely to admit to angry driving, men are more likely to engage in active road rage behavior. Drivers most likely to suffer road rage are those with long commutes to and from work and those who are rushing to meetings on a regular basis.

So how can you tell if you are descending into road-rage-type behavior? Another quick test:

  • Do you speed?
  • Do you tailgate?
  • Do you feel panicked about getting to your destination in time and take risks as a result?
  • Do you berate other drivers?
  • Do you gesture rudely to drivers who overtake you or cut you off?
  • Do you weave in and out of heavy traffic and don't care whom you cut off?
  • Do you beep your horn for any mistake made by another driver?
  • Do you flash your headlights at drivers who won't let you pass?
  • Do you feel competitive about another driver going faster than you and feel the need to speed up too, just to show him you can do it too?
  • Do you drive along the hard shoulder to get to the "front" of the traffic jam?
  • Do you feel violent tendencies against drivers who offend you?
  • Do you always want to make another driver pay for a mistake?
  • Do you feel angry almost every time you are behind the wheel?

A couple of those sound familiar, don’t they?

Controlling Your Own Rage

If you do engage in some aggressive behavior in the car, consider addressing the reasons behind your frustrations. Generally speaking, they have very little to do with the @%&*! with whom you’re annoyed. Try the following:

Reduce stress before you drive. Unrelated stress is the primary reason for aggressive behavior behind the wheel. Driving in heavy traffic can be very stressful, but if you are already tense when you get into your car, your chances of controlling it behind the wheel are diminished. So before you start your engine, try to calm down. Don't jump into the car immediately after a stressful meeting or workday. Take a breather; a lot of guys find that taking a brisk walk or doing a couple of easy breathing exercises helps quite a bit.

Plan for your drive. If possible, check traffic on the radio or online before heading into battle. Avoid areas of heavy congestion as often as possible. If there's an alternative route, take it. Even if the route is a bit longer, it will be more pleasant — and so will you be, on arrival.

Break up a long journey. The longer you stay behind the wheel, the more likely you are to feel tired and anxious and, therefore, aggressive. If you must make a long drive, try to break it up with regular stops: build in a coffee break, lunch break or leg-stretching break. Avoid driving for more than three hours without a break.

Don't take anything personally. If a driver cuts you off or makes a rude remark or gesture, don't consider it a personal affront. It’s more likely than not that the driver doesn’t know you and is merely having a rough day. Or maybe he or she is just a jerk. Whatever the reason, the driver’s exaggerated anger has nothing to do with you. And if he or she made an innocent mistake or inept driving move — who cares? We all make them from time to time. Let it slide. Their problems are not worth ruining your mood. Take a couple of deep breaths and laugh it off (but don’t let the other driver see you or you may get a visit at the next traffic light).

Ignore outright offensive behavior. If another driver makes rude gestures or shouts at you, ignore him or her. Avoid eye contact with that driver and don’t do anything that would seem confrontational, like speeding up or swerving. Remember, he or she is angry about unrelated matter — or crazy — and is simply looking to pick a fight. Why bring up your insurance premiums (or worse) for their sake?

Drive responsibly. If you drive responsibly, there is less chance that another driver will honk at you or react in an offensive manner — less of a chance that you will respond aggressively. Avoid tailgating, use your turn signals, overtake only on the left, etc.

Cooperate with other drivers. Allow other drivers to merge in front of you without making it a contest. Remember that other drivers are not all out to make you late or push you back; they are just trying to use the road like you are.

Take the right action. If you are followed by a driver or continuously harassed, lock your doors and drive to the nearest police station or law enforcement vehicle and report the incident. Let the police deal with the matter as you continue to your destination — happily.

Check out also Controlling Road Rage on Smart Motorist.

This article last updated on Sunday 12th February 2012
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