Road rage can be defined as ‘violent behaviour exhibited by drivers in traffic, often as a manifestation of stress.’
But will it happen to you? Well answer me this: have you ever lost your temper (anywhere)? No… then I know a good psychiatrist; but if you’re ‘normal’ and have suffered moments of life stress leading to frustration, realise that could happen behind the wheel just the same. Causes might include:
- Pet Peeves (we all have something we ‘hate’)
Green Flag did a survey in 2007 – the short version is that for every 10 drivers, at least 8 experienced some sort of road rage, and one in three found it happening every week. This isn’t just a rare event or something those Mad Yanks do – it’s happening to most of us most weeks.
So what can we do about it? It’s easy enough to say ‘stay calm’ but much harder in practice. Here are some ideas we hope can help you (and so help everyone else too!)
Anyone can become an unsafe driver! I watched a white-haired older lady this evening, walk against the red light into the moving traffic. Does she have a death wish…? It’s tempting…. I could just accelerate and…. At times we all see something that is just plain stupid, or which makes us mad. If it had been a small kid, I probably wouldn’t have minded or even noticed, it’s just that you expect better from older folk… and there I go again. See the trick is to knowing what behaviours it is that make you annoyed and acknowledge this.
It could be the teenager who wheel spins his dad’s escort off from the lights, or the ‘granny’ who insists in doing 27 in a 30 zone when you were hoping for something faster (but still legal, of course!). When you find yourself peeved at something, make a mental note. If you’re often annoyed at the same behaviours, recognise this as a potential trigger for your own ‘Rage’ and yes – when it happens to you, stay calm. You can’t control other people, but you can control the way you respond. Especially when you recognise what they do to make you mad.
Road Rage from Stress
You are, of course, the only person on the road who is busy, stressed or in a hurry. At least you are if you’re driving down an empty side street at 4am. What you don’t realise is that the guy who just cut you off is hurrying to the hospital (his daughter has just been knocked down by a stressed driver). And that woman who stepped in front of you without even looking – well her kid has just been diagnosed with something nasty.
The thing is, we’re all stressed all of the time. It’s just part of life. We need to realise this applies to everyone on the road and, as some might say, ‘just chill’. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if this will really matter to you next year? If not, let it slide. As my granddad used to ask us – are you really going to risk someone’s life to save 30 sec? Wow, work must be really important if you’re that desperate to get there on time.
All right, we’re done with being peeved and even stressed. **** that! Now we’re angry! You’re also:
- Taking more risks on the road
- Driving more aggressively
- More likely to be involved in an accident
- More impulsive and anxious
Yeah sure, well ***** the research – what can I do about it anyway? If you take a look around, you’ll find most information available tells you what to do when someone is angry at you. So let’s talk about what to do if you’re the one who is none too pleased:
- Don’t even get in the car if you’re still angry about something (spouse/date, work, friends, etc.)
- Take time to cool off – if you can
- Don’t try to reduce any anger with alcohol or other drugs
- Don’t expect others to be polite or even good drivers
- Don’t personalise it – if they’re a bad driver, they’re always bad – it’s not aimed at you
- Think about why you’re driving: To see family? To get to work (at least I get paid)? Whatever the reason, it wasn’t to get angry, crash and spend time in hospital. Deep breath and focus on the road; that *** is already history.
- Find your mental ‘calm place’ – I like to imagine I’m on the beach, just don’t daydream so much you crash! If you can (OK , this sounds weird, but go with it…) find out what it is that relaxes you before you need it. Spend a few non-driving minutes deciding if it’s the beach, bar or bedroom. Go back there next time you’re angry.
- All that not working? Just imagine the other driver naked! Try not to crash while laughing.
I find it’s much easier to do something daft when I’m tired. From trying to put the laundry in the fridge (I tried to do it this week, it didn’t work) to easy driving mistakes, tired can equal careless. So watch for drowsy driving. At the same time, realise you might make a mistake and if you do, hold up a hand or wave and apologise. Often that’s enough to stop any road rage right there.
I’ve written before about drowsy driving so here’s the short version:
- Yawning? Pull over soon. Rest or coffee.
- Tired eyes? Pull over now. Rest
- Lost track of time/road? Stop now. Sleep is needed. Next you’ll be losing track of the double yellows. Crunch time!
And all of the above will risk causing careless errors which you just wouldn’t do if you weren’t so tired.
There are other ways to deal with road rage. As we’ve mentioned there is a lot of information available (on the Internet and elsewhere) about what to do if you’re on the receiving end of Rage. You could take driver training or become an advanced driver. If you’re repeatedly having personal issues, you might even want to consider some form of professional anger management class. Whatever it takes, please stay safe on the roads – I might be the guy next to you!
About the Author: Tony has been teaching First Aid for a couple of decades now, writes a blog about it, provides on-line safety training and generally tries to do whatever it takes to keep your and your family, friends & workmates safe.