Whenever I mention road rage, regardless the demographic I’m speaking with, a high percentage of the group admit to road rage even sharing stories, and occasionally defending their behavior. Before you think I‘m being holier than thou, I also suffer from road rage. Yes, I said suffer, because road rage doesn’t help anybody. It’s destructive, dangerous, and unhealthy. Do you suffer from road rage as well? If so, what are we going to do about it?
Own Up to It
The first thing is to admit that we have a problem. You and I must stop defending our poor behavior, blaming others for our lack of emotional control, and recognize that road rage is not the answer.
A common fallacy in thinking is explaining by naming, falsely assuming that by naming a behavior you’ve explained it. Let’s start by calling road rage what it is – anger, out of control illogical anger. You don’t get road rage; it’s not a virus. You don’t get road rage, you get angry, you get mad.
As Beverly D Flaxington shares in Psychology Today, “There’s a big difference between observing reckless vehicular behavior and reacting to it with rage. It’s perfectly normal to be alarmed at poor driving and hopefully to respond defensively. But some of us, me included, get furious at times. We honk our horns. We slow way down with them right on our tailgate to “teach them a lesson,” or we pull up beside them, roll down our windows, and yell.”
Stop Raging – It’s Your Decision
Once you accept you’re angry the next step is to admit nobody makes you angry, you always have a choice as to how you react in any situation. First, you have to admit nobody gave you road rage. If you’re angry, it’s because you choose to be so.
Next, take the time to consider how destructive your anger is. Whether you’re driving a 40,000- pound class 8 truck or a Mini Cooper you’re behind the wheel of a ticking time bomb when you allow anger to take the wheel. Anger behind the wheel kills, here’s how:
- Distracted Driving, when you vent toward one event or driver, you’re not focused on the whole.
- Escalation, there are countless stories of enraged drivers upping the stakes, which can lead to accidents and worse.
- It’s unhealthy; anger isn’t good for the body or the mind. I’m certain I could find a story of a driver while in the midst of road rage who suffered a heart attack or stroke, but it doesn’t have to be that intense to be damaging to your body and spirit.
- Anger is tiring. It wears you out and uses up your body’s ability to cope with danger. Tired driving after uncontrolled rage is almost as dangerous as angry driving.
How to Stop Raging Behind the Wheel
Be Prepared – You know it’s coming. Traffic jams, accidents, poor road conditions, construction zone delays, and bad drivers who make poor decisions are all waiting for you. So don’t be surprised — be ready. If you know what to expect you can manage your expectations. Make a commitment to not react in anger to what you know is part of your daily commute.
Drive Defensively – Are you a good driver? Do you drive defensively? If so it’s impossible to drive defensively and with anger at the same time. Think about it – one cancels the other, which one do you want to present on the road? So, don’t be the cause of road rage. Don’t tailgate, speed, cut off others, or hog the left lane.
It’s Not About You – When my wife sees me moving toward road rage she asks me, “What’s the matter aren’t the other drivers meeting your expectations?” I thank her for it. Her words give me perspective and remind me not to take it personally. I used to sing a ditty with my two oldest grandchildren when they were in the car with me, and another driver showed poor driver skills or decision making. It went like this, “You’re a dumby and you don’t know how to drive, you’re a dumby and you don’t know how to drive, you’re a dumby and you don’t know how to drive, I’m amazed you’re still alive.” Yes, it’s silly, but the kids laughed and the anger disappeared.
Use Good Manners – Where else is discourteous and rude behavior accepted? When someone maneuvers their shopping cart in front of you at the grocery is it acceptable to gesture, scream, yell, and curse. What about at a restaurant when another gets their food before you? The answer is it’s not good manners anywhere and we should especially use good manners behind the wheel when so much is at stake.
Do You Want to Be Happy or Mad?
Would you rather be mean and angry or good and kind? The bottom line is, you get to decide, whether it will be rage or kindness. With rage comes a multitude of dangers and with kindness comes feeling of goodness and cheer. I know. Goodness and cheers sounds corny, like some holiday commercial, but it’s the truth, and it’s up to you. How do you want to be? Do you enjoy working yourself into a rage? Really?