It starts out innocently enough. You’ve had a bad day and all of a sudden you’re on the road with aggressive drivers, horns are honking, and someone is tailgating you. You’re going the speed limit and using your turn signals, so why are the other cars on the road practicing aggressive driving? You feel the tension and stress begin to build. Next thing you know, you change lanes and honk your own horn at the jerk who just blew past you.
You’re now displaying aggressive driving behaviors on your daily commute. This is more than defensive driving, and it could become road rage if you don’t adjust your behavior. Here are some tips to help you regain control and start practicing safe driving skills.
Signs of Road Rage
It’s hard to know if you’ve passed the line from hand gestures to all-out road rage. Anything from a traffic jam to a stressful day can be the cause. You need to know the signs of moving from aggressive driving to road rage. Here are some things to consider:
- Making eye contact with another driver who made you angry
- Rude or obscene hand gestures
- Honking your horn
- Cussing and yelling
- Feeling like your stress level is about to explode
- Ignoring stoplights to catch up to another car
- Stop using your turn signals
Road rage can cause car accidents and even fatal crashes — more than 36,000 Americans died from them in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — so it’s essential to know how to avoid it. It can begin during heavy traffic or because the driver has had a bad day, or that the driver is running late and hits too many red lights during rush hour. Understanding what sets you off is key to making a change, so be sure to examine your triggers when you feel yourself getting frustrated on the road.
Tips for Calming Down in the Midst of Road Rage
You’re flicking your high beams and fighting over a parking space. Yep, it’s road rage. Now what? Here are a few tips for calming down.
1. Phone a Friend
Using your hands-free phone, call a friend or family member. Stop worrying about the heavy traffic and discuss more mundane things. Talking about day-to-day matters is a great way to calm down, plus makes the time fly by during a traffic jam.
2. Reframe the Situation in Your Head
The guy behind you honking his horn and tailgating you isn’t just an inconsiderate so-and-so. He might be late for a huge presentation for a brand new client at work, or maybe taking his pregnant wife to the hospital. You need to see the aggressive driver in a new light to avoid road rage in yourself. If you try having empathy and believe the other driver has real needs to get somewhere immediately, you might find it easier to not become an angry driver yourself.
3. Take a Deep Breath
Calm down and reduce your stress level by taking a deep breath. You can continue to take deep breaths as long as you need to.
4. Control Your Anger by Counting to 10
When you’re frustrated, your mind can start running in a million different directions. Counting to 10 helps you to refocus on something else. It gives you a chance to reduce your stress level and clear your thoughts about the other drivers.
5. Change Your Tune
This might seem simple, but change the station on your radio. If you’re listening to something upbeat or loud, you might benefit from changing to some soft rock or even classical music. You want to find something that’s soothing and comforting to help your anger subside.
Long-Term Road Rage Solutions
Do you ever wonder how to avoid road rage every day? There are long-term solutions that help you deal with your commute and avoid situations that include aggressive driving. Here are a few to consider.
6. Leave the House a Little Earlier
If you find yourself driving aggressively and tailgating the other drivers during rush hour, it might be best to leave the house a little earlier and avoid the heavy traffic. Less traffic on the road makes it easier to relax and avoid aggressive drivers. You’ll also find a better parking space at work.
7. Change Your Route
You may consider finding a different route, or finding one with fewer stoplights, which means fewer red lights to slow you down. A different route might be longer on the map but actually take less time — and reduce your stress levels during the drive.
8. Maintain Your Car
If your car is overheating in heavy traffic, you may find yourself more stressed — and more prone to anger that can lead to road rage. You don’t want to have to look for a safe place to pull over during rush hour traffic, so keep up your car maintenance to ensure you don’t end up with an avoidable breakdown.
9. Anger Management
If you struggle with your temper and managing your anger, driving in rush hour traffic or heavy traffic is almost guaranteed to turn you into an aggressive driver. You might want to consider an anger management class to help you learn additional ways to avoid letting your temper get the better of you.
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