Ten Tips for Avoiding Road Rage

MAC's near altercation with a road bully leads to these tips. Take a deep breath, relax, read on... Road rage is a growing phen...

MAC's near altercation with a road bully leads to these tips. Take a deep breath, relax, read on...

Road rage is a growing phenomenon and most of us will blame crowded roads and congestion for creating it. Just the other day, on the way while taking my children to school, I was abused by another school-run parent after I sounded my horn at him; he jumped out of his car intent on fighting with me. The thing is, the road wasn’t very busy or congested, and thus we must start to realise that the source of driver frustration lies within us. Ronald Kessler of the Harvard Medical School believes that a thing called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED) may be the cause for many of us, and that the real root of aggressive behaviour behind the steering wheel lies within us. So, how can we reduce the chances of us suffering from road rage and acting like a complete pillock?

1. Get your sleep. 
It is obvious, I know, but when we don’t get enough sleep, we get cranky, prone to feeling annoyed, frustrated, resentment and anger. Doctors tell us to get eight hours a night, so try doing what the doctor says, for a change. If you are going on a long trip, ensure that you take a break at least every three hours; stop and have a coffee or a soft drink, and have a stretch for at least 15 minutes.

2. Turn down the music. 
It is a well-known fact that the music you are playing affects your mood. If you are playing loud aggressive music, you will be in a heightened sense of aggression. Change the channel and listen to EASYFM, or your local equivalent.

3. Your car is a mode of transport, that is all. 
Many of us identify with our car a little too much and take the car as an extension of ourselves a little too seriously. If you get into your car in a bad mood, you are three times more likely to get into an altercation during your journey. Remember, your car is not a therapist.

4. Practise simple relaxation techniques.
Particularly if you are in a bad mood before you get into your car or you notice that you are starting to get angry or anxious, roll down the window and breathe deeply and slowly, or do the same but with the aircon set on maximum. Some psychologists recommend learning a simple song that you can sing or hum that puts a smile on your face.

5. Plan ahead.
The best laid plans of mice and men rarely proceed as we would like them to. A ten-minute trip can turn into twenty minutes just because some bozo parked badly and obstructed the exit of the parking lot. When we are up against time, we get stressed which is a leading cause of road rage.

6. Take the Selfie Test
No, I am not talking about a personal photo but something that the American Institute for Public Safety (AIPS) has. They call it the RoadRageous test; this determines whether your habits fall into the the ‘aggressive zone’, ‘hostile zone’ or — worse yet — ‘war zone’ and, of course, gives you the heads-up that you may need to do something about it.

7. It’s not about you!
After you witness or become the victim of some diabolical driving, before you assume that it was aimed at you to make you look or feel slighted and your anger levels start to rise, realise one cool clear thing - you were not being targeted. The other driver does not know you and they simply made a mistake or was not aware that you were there, so don’t take it personally.

8. The car is not an extension of you.
The AAA believes that we identify with our car and thus we become territorial when approached. Remember, the car is NOT an extension of you. The American Pyschological Institute claims that people with anger issues are three times more likely to have a heart attack than those without, so relax and live longer.

9. Be nice.
We don’t like it when a stranger is rude or cuts in line in a restaurant or store, but most people wouldn't lose their cool and become abusive over it. It isn't only because they have good manners, it is because they are in a social setting. Driving a car makes people feel more isolated and protected, granting them the ease to act in ways that under other circumstances would be embarrassing. So, when another driver acts idiotically, react as you would if you were in a restaurant. And we don't mean late night at a McDonalds.

10. And then be nicer.
Dr Leon James a.k.a. ‘Dr. Driving’, author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving, says that remembering simple courtesies, like giving way for others to merge or apologising for our mistakes, can go a long way in making the driving experience positive for ourselves and others. His basic motto is the old "do unto others" rule: treat fellow drivers how you would like to be treated. If that is not incentive enough, curbing your aggression on the road can also keep you out of trouble; some countries or states have formed special law enforcement teams to seek out and cite aggressive drivers. The punishment could be a hefty fine, revoking of driving license or jail time. Often, attending a behavior-modification course is required for the violators as well. 

image: yoganonymous.com

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