Driving can get intense, too intense. Witness, perpetrator, or victim, and often all three, road rage can strike even the calmest commuters. Here’s how to avoid blowing your top on the black top.
We do a lot of things in our cars. We eat, we talk, we listen to our favorite songs, we get super angry over what are in retrospect minor traffic infractions and then scream expletives in front of our highly impressionable children.
Not me specifically, I always manage to keep my cool despite people’s failure to turn into the nearest lane or signal properly or merge before the absolute last second causing me to slam on the brakes and come to a stop mere inches from their rear bumper which happens to be covered in stickers proclaiming an abiding love for all things French Bulldog.
Driving can be stressful. You’re piloting thousands of pounds of metal at what are, when you think about it, inherently dangerous speeds. These heightened circumstances produce heightened stress responses. And being stressed out, even unconsciously so, can put your temper on a hair trigger.
Here’s a rundown of bad behaviors and some suggestions about how to avoid flipping your lid.
You’re stuck in a long line of backed-up traffic with a soft median between northbound gridlock and southbound open road. An impatient Jeep driver veers hard left and drives over the median, seeming to say to heck with wherever they were going. You are equal parts jealous at their escape and enraged at how their off-road tires have torn up municipal landscaping.
These are the urban cowboys aggressively racing your Prius from stoplight to stoplight, taking great care in maintaining the position of their exhaust parallel with your driver side window. They are also unwilling to even try to race a Tesla.
These are the sleep deprived parents of twins who realize too late they need to re-merge from the right turn lane and end up blocking said turn lane with their signals on for the duration of stoplight. Take your pick whether you’re the grump who refuses to let them into your lane or the person behind them who just wanted to make a quick right.
You know the guy, decked out in a pink or green pastel polo and white-on-white shorts, shoes, and hat. He’s late to his tee time, weaving through traffic on the expressway like a maniac who’s had one to many Frescas.
Even more oblivious than Odyssey drivers, the Mercedes driver does not signal when making a late merge to get to their exit and then gives you the finger for nearly hitting them.
Let’s face it. They’re just having way more fun than the rest of us.
Not driving like a dunderhead is only part of the solution. Making sure you can master your emotions will go a long way toward avoiding road rage. So, the next time some heedless nincompoop does something atrociously dangerous or incomprehensibly rude and you feel your blood bubbling up like a Korean hot pot (mmm…spicy), remember, there is another way. See below.
Anger has a surprisingly short half-life once you change the subject. I find reminding myself of this scene from the Simpsons never fails to bring a smile to my face. Find your funny.
This one might be tricky, but just remember we are all people with lives of stress and distraction. That person who just cut you off may have had someone close to them fall ill or they lost their job today and they’re out of sorts. We’ve all been there.
Many of us are not getting enough sleep. All those lost Zs add up to a lot of additional stress on our minds and bodies. Once you’re sleeping a solid 7-8 hours, you’ll be much better equipped to deal with the minor annoyances of daily driving.
It’s not just for kids.
Another way to both boost your mood and get your mind off the idiot in front of you is to crank up the volume and drown out all those nasty thoughts with something like this. On the other hand, if your music tastes veer toward the aggro, maybe leave the stereo off.
By factoring in the inevitable and leaving early, you can avoid running late. Then all those Buicks with molasses in their carburetors won’t have you frantically tailgating them.
All of these require an effort at self-awareness, admittedly no simple task. But if you make it your practice it becomes easier with time. And who knows, maybe this new-found capacity for introspection proves beneficial outside the confines of your daily commute.
Remember, road rage is no joke. Maintaining your calm behind the wheel keeps you and other drivers safe.
How do you avoid road rage? Any strange methods for keeping cool? Let us know in the comments.