Photo courtesy of Josh Greenfield
Road rage is a behavior that we often poke fun at and think of as a quirky personality trait. The reality of road rage, however, is definitely not funny. Feeling personally offended by what other drivers are doing often leads to fits of intense anger, aggression and in some cases, violence.
Although it is easy to make jokes about, if you or a loved one regularly get extremely agitated while driving, it’s time to do some self assessment. Because of the potentially serious outcomes, it is important to get a handle on how to control your emotions behind the wheel. What sparked my interest in this behavior pattern is the fact that my own husband is aggressive behind the wheel, and it concerns me.
Studies have conflicting results on whether road rage is more common with men or women. Regardless of sex, anyone can exhibit the behaviors of road rage if they assume that other drivers are out to get in their way. This may ring true in other areas of life as well. To determine if your driving frustration has the potential to become dangerous, ask yourself a few simple questions:
- Are you dealing with a lot of pent-up stress in your life?
- Do you view driving as a race?
- Do you feel like other drivers are trying to annoy you?
- Is it common for you to drive above the posted speed limit?
- How often do you find yourself tailgating someone?
- Do you honk your horn or flash your lights in an attempt to show your anger to other drivers?
- Is swearing something you do often in your car, especially directed at other drivers?
- Do you often feel that other drivers are “in your way” and need to be taught a lesson?
If you or someone you know answered positively to the above, know that there are ways to help a raging driver calm down behind the wheel and turn back into a reasonable driver. Some steps to take include:
- Remember that other drivers are human. In fact, they may be dealing with marriage trouble, screaming kids in the car, or maybe they aren’t feeling well. Whatever they did that annoyed you was probably an honest mistake and had nothing to do with you. Don’t take it personally.
- Drop the anonymity. You are not your car, and you shouldn’t let it become a shield while you act like a bully. Treat other drivers like you would treat them face-to-face in a social situation. Use courtesy, and give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Listen to good music. I’m not suggesting you pipe classical symphonies through your vehicle every time you drive, but there seems to be some pretty solid evidence supporting the fact that quieter, more relaxing music leads to less instances of aggressive driving.
- Look at the big picture. Anger is not good for you – plain and simple. Is it really worth getting your blood pressure and heart rate elevated over?
People who regularly get angry are three times more likely to have a heart attack than their more carefree peers. Getting all bent out of shape over a driving mistake certainly isn’t going to improve the situation, and the only person affected will be you (and anyone in the car with you). By letting the incident roll off your back, you’ll enjoy the rest of your ride and be on your way to making calmness into a habit. Your driving stress level will decrease, and if you’re lucky, your good attitude will eek its way into other areas of your life, too.