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Don’t let Outrage Turn into Road Rage

Submitted by Kurt Arbuckle on March 7, 2013 – 4:27 pm One Comment

Sometimes I wish I had a rocket launcher. There is this intersection on my way home that drivers sometimes block. Because I am on a side street, my green light is short and I can miss the whole light cycle. My blood pressure skyrockets; I just want to bang on the steering wheel, and I want to blow up the other vehicle. Like most everyone else, I end up laying on the horn, hoping this will somehow punish the offending driver.

On roads throughout the U.S. every day, thousands of incidents like this or other offenses are committed by drivers. They occasionally escalate into violence with physical damage and even injuries. There are limitless reasons why people get upset while driving, but the important issue is how we can avoid becoming involved in “road rage.”

One huge resource for information on the psychology of driving is the website of Professor Leon James, DrDriving.org. Here, you’re provided with a brief guide on how to avoid escalating road outrages into road rages. There are two parts to consider when driving: your actions that could provoke a reaction and your reaction to what another driver does. Here are nine things you can do that take care of both parts.

Follow the rules. Stop at stop signs; don’t run “pink” lights; drive the actual speed limit (but keep up with traffic); etc. If you follow the rules of the road, no one has any justification to be upset with you. There will be people who think you are in their way, but they are rare and they are in the wrong, not you.

Go beyond the rules and learn what it takes to be safe on the road. Keep your vehicle in safe condition, and don’t do distracting things while driving.

Improve your driving skills. There are many advanced driving schools in the U.S. that take you from an average driver to an expert. BMW has a school and so do other car manufacturers. But you don’t have to own an expensive car to learn skills. For example, the Texas World Speedway Performance Driving School, located in central Texas, has reasonable daily prices. Similar schools can be found all over the country.

Change the way you feel about driving. After we have gotten over the initial feeling of freedom that comes with learning to drive, driving becomes something we do to get somewhere.

In a sense, driving is an inconvenience that we have to endure to get where we want to be. So we start off, at least subconsciously, half-irritated at the task. But driving can be fun even when the primary purpose is to get somewhere. With the confidence that we gain from the first three points, we can look forward to the drive for its own sake.

Do as the Zen masters say, drive in the moment. Even if we enjoy driving, there are still times when we get frustrated, especially when we are late or the traffic is slow for no apparent reason. When you are late, accept that you are late. Tests have shown that hurrying through traffic will not save more than an insignificant amount of time no matter what, and the danger of an accident that further delays you goes way up. When the traffic is stopped and there is nothing safe you can do, learn to live with it. It helps to allow plenty of time to get where you need to be.

The more important the event, the more extra time for unforeseen traffic should be added. If you have plenty of time, there is less pressure to do something that is going to outrage another driver. Remember, there is nothing wrong in getting there early if the traffic is better than you anticipated.

Don’t judge the other drivers. Some drivers are obnoxious and self-centered, but many just make mistakes because they are in a hurry, not paying close attention, or are unfamiliar with the area. Sometimes you can tell when a driver is being a jerk, but even then, the driver may have just had a bad experience and is emotionally out of balance (a condition you do not want to escalate).

From your side, the best you can do is objectively deal with what is actually happening on the road, and not what is in the other driver’s head.

Help the other driver, if you can. If the other driver is wanting in your lane, let them in. If they are trying to turn left from a right hand lane, let them. If they are speeding, let them by. If you haven’t judged the other driver, you can think of this as being helpful. If you have judged the other driver, you will have a tendency to think of this as cowering, giving in, or letting them get away with it.

Forgive other drivers. They aren’t all as smart, skilled and emotionally centered as you. Especially young drivers, they may lack the maturity to drive as safely as they should. It would be good for them to learn better, but the road is not the place to teach them.

Practice being the kind of driver outlined in the previous eight tips. Sometimes just get in the car and drive with the sole purpose of paying attention to one or more of the points. Every time you get in the car, do a checklist in your head, relax, and only then start the car. Be alert and make sure you are fully rested when you drive.

There are many reasons why people get angry at other drivers, and there are many reasons why drivers often drive too aggressively. However, it only takes mastering these nine simple (and fun) points to make your driving experience more enjoyable and safer for you, your passengers, and other drivers.

One Comment »

  • Phil says:

    Biggest missed cause for road rage, cars holding up traffic in the fast lane. The law most places is keep right except to pass. If you’re not passing cars to your right, you need to merge over. People don’t understand the danger they create when they obstruct the flow of traffic. Stay in the right lane and don’t block others and you’ll see a lot less high beams, middle fingers, vulgarities, etc.