According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, there are over 1,200 incidents of road rage every year, about 300 of which end in serious injuries or fatalities. With traffic showing no signs of improving, this number is rising steadily. It’s not surprising then that the police, medical practitioners and civic associations are continuously studying the phenomenon we call “road rage” and trying to find ways to deal with it.
We’ve all found ourselves in situations where some “stupid” driver cuts us off, tailgates continuously, keeps on honking his horn incessantly, or even pulls alongside and starts yelling something obscene. This can make anyone angry and, if unchecked, can lead to road rage. Here’s what you can do when you start to feel the urge to strike back.
Be prepared for it
Road rage usually happens in heavy traffic, on crowded streets and in messy surroundings. You can reduce the chances of road rage by getting ready for it. Here’s how to set the stage to avoid road rage.
- Keep your surroundings serene. Make sure your car is neat, clean and in good working condition. Nothing can aggravate your angry reaction while driving more than a car that’s dirty, cluttered and starts to act up.
- Get rid of provocative bumper stickers, license plates or other signs. They might look cute to you but they could be insulting to others.
- Go for cool interiors. If you’re prone to flare-ups while driving, you might be better off with blue or green interiors that have a soothing effect. Red and yellow, while attractive, don’t work well when you’re in a bad mood.
- Keep the kids entertained. If you have small children (or a pet) with you, make sure they’re properly strapped in. Give them enough toys or playthings to keep them entertained during the trip.
- Have soothing music handy. You’ll find that listening to relaxing music helps you calm down when you find yourself losing your cool.
- Listen to radio updates about road conditions, construction projects, traffic jams and pile-ups so you can look for alternate routes.
- Avoid the rush hours. Plan your schedule so you’re not rushing to meet an appointment so a few minutes more or less won’t make any difference.
- Be conscious of your own driving habits. Drive carefully and don’t give anyone else an excuse to provoke you.
By setting the stage to keep calm when you’re provoked, you’ll find it easier to get a grip on your emotions when you find yourself teetering on the edge of road rage.
Don’t fall for it
It’s only natural to be angry when you’re provoked on the road. It only becomes road rage when you let your anger go un-checked and succumb to the temptation to respond in kind. If you start to feel like you’re about to lose it, try these.
- Psych yourself. Try convincing yourself that it isn’t worth acting like the “jerk” the other guy is. Remind yourself that it’s nothing personal and find excuses for the other driver’s behavior.
- Take long, slow, deep breaths. By focusing on your breathing you release tension and re-direct your attention to other things.
- Play that tape. This is the time to listen to that soothing music you brought along. Sing or whistle along if it helps.
- Shift your focus. Talk to a passenger about anything that will get your mind off the problem. If you have kids in the car, think of them and how traumatized they can be by an ugly scene.
- Pull over. If nothing seems to work and you’re still on the verge of road rage, stop at a diner, gas station or off the road. Simmer down. If you think it will help, phone a friend and get your anger out of your system. Get back in the car only after you’ve gotten control of your feelings.
Above all, if you’ve been provoked by reckless or aggressive driving, don’t turn things into a tit-for-tat situation. Remember that the best way to let go of your road rage is to let the other guy go. It’s the surest way to get to your destination safe and sound.
About the Author: James McDonnel contributed this guest post. James is an automotive enthusiast and a freelance writer who loves everything that has to do with wheels and works for Wish.co.uk. His articles appear on many online auto publications.