5 Ways to Bring Your Road Rage to a Halt
Does the thought of getting cut off make your heart pound? Does the image of someone mouthing four letter words to you make you clench your jaw? Does the desire to see some impatient idiot roll off into a ditch ever cross your mind? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, it’s safe to say that you’ve experience road rage in some form, perhaps while stuck in traffic. Let’s face it – city streets and busy highways can turn into a battleground where ego, pride and self-respect is on the line. But escalating and frequent road rage is never a good thing. If you are not willing to cool off, that searing anger you project towards other drivers can turn around and burn you.
The Face of Road Rage
If you were to ask a few people what road rage entails, you’d get different answers. And it makes sense since it exits on a spectrum. You’ve probably heard of those extreme cases in the news, where drivers chase each other, smash into one another, or pull over for a fistfight. But most angry drivers aren’t so anti-social. In fact, their road rage manifests in milder ways, some of which you may identify with.
Common Acts of Road Rage
- Excessive honking – Honking at every opportunity doesn’t show your calm side. Although it’s original purpose is to warn or alert a driver, it’s now synonymous with showing your irritation for something another driver has done. If you’re blasting the horn when a driver spends more than a second too long after a light changes (assuming you’re not in New York City), then your honking suggests impatience and anger.
- Tailgating – Unless you’re a police officer chasing a fleeting criminal, you have no right to tailgate someone because of what they may have done. It’s a dangerous way to teach a driver a lesson since it could easily turn into a collision. Additionally, tailgating carries hefty penalties. Here in Ontario, it falls under the charge, “Following too closely”, which comes with a fine of $110 – $500, 4 demerit points, and a possible license suspension for G1, G2, M1 and M2 drivers.
- Verbal abuse – We’ve all muttered some filthy words or even shouted them out when a driver cuts us off or honks at us for no good reason. But if you’re doing this all the time, it’s a problem. If you’re visibly swearing at an elderly driver, or a student driver who made a genuine mistake, you most certainly have a problem with rage. Put yourself in their shoes, and give them room to make their mistakes. No one is flawless.
- Rude gestures – When we’re not sure what purpose a particular body part has, leave it up to us humans to misuse it. Enter the middle finger. Originating from ancient Greece, throwing the middle finger (a.k.a flipping the bird) is the most common gesture used by angry drivers to insult another motorist. And sure, it may only be a finger, but you wouldn’t show it if you were in a good mood.
- Throwing projectiles – You’re brave if you pull this one off. Whether you throw coffee cups, crumpled balls of paper or office supplies (such as pens, for whatever reason), throwing objects at a driver who’s angered you is a blatant form of road rage, and some form of emotional trauma as well. It’s dangerous and illegal too – you could lead to causing an accident, or land yourself several charges, such as dangerous driving or assault.
The behaviours mentioned above, along with many other antics are clear signs of road rage, which need addressing if you’re always acting them out. Fortunately, there are several remedies for a restless and enraged soul that feels tortured on the roads.
1. Keep your stress meter out of the red
Stress often leads to emotional imbalances, meaning we respond to things inappropriately. So if you’re already starting the day with a lot of baggage, small actions or gestures from other people will aggravate you. What’s the solution? Keep your stress down to a minimum. That may include finding an alternate route to beat traffic, getting a full night’s sleep, and eating a healthy breakfast. Additionally, getting plenty of exercise can greatly reduce stress, as well as meditation, spiritual activities and having a creative hobby. If you just can’t shake the stress off of your daily drive, make it a weekly thing. You can always carpool or take public transit a few times a week.
2. Kill them with calmness
When someone provokes you by means of their speech or actions, they’re often hoping to elicit an equally negative response out of you. They get you mad, and you feed into it, which results in an escalating cycle of anger. No doubt, you want them to feel the most “hurt”. So be calm with them. If you ignore them or even smile, they’ll feel betrayed by the response they got. Not only will they feel defeated, they’ll leave you alone once they realize you have a bulletproof armour of calmness. What’s even more important, is that you’ll find humour out of the situation, which will reduce much of the disease-causing stress that so many drivers face.
3. Have a laugh, have a blast
If you still have a tendency to flare up, perhaps you need an external source of relaxation. That could come in many forms. Take music for example. When you sing along with your favourite artists, you’re so focused on the lyrics, that you’re not worried about other people in the moment. Even a blissful instrumental song (such as Trance, Ambient genres) can put you in a mood of restfulness. Apart from music, there are comedy albums, which can help you laugh your frustration away (they might even have bits on road rage). All of these escapes can do wonders for your mind when other drivers annoy you.
4. Stay in your lane
Always keep the golden rule in memory while driving. If you want your fellow drivers to respect you on the road, make sure you show them respect as well. It’s true, that some people will mistreat you even if you’re nice to them, but the majority of people will be nice if you’re nice to them. If people are always honking at you or giving you awkward stares for your driving behaviour, then you can silence them by being more courteous. You’ll have less people showing their anger towards you, meaning that you’ll no longer have to throw a fit back at them.
5. Vent to a professional
For some of you, the constant road rage may be a sign of some deeper emotional problems. This is definitely possible if your episodes are intense enough to leave you feeling drained, or if you’re “snapping” in other situations besides traffic. Speaking to a professional can offer you much in terms of counselling, and you may slowly uncover the reasons as to why you feel so irritated on the roads. The findings may surprise you. So don’t hesitate to do so if you’re finding it hard to control your road rage.
Heading Left or Right, Your Destination is Calming
Don’t expect to go from barbarian to monk overnight. Learning to control anger and to replace it with calm takes practice, perseverance and patience. First of all, aggressive drivers will often provoke you in the hopes that they get you riled up. Second, your own passengers may encourage you to retaliate when a driver acts harshly towards you, perhaps, suggesting that you tell them off. With such “motivation” around you, it can be hard to remain calm. However, letting go of road rage has its advantages. You’ll have a healthier mind and body, and you won’t feel a sense of dread when driving in heavy traffic. Ultimately, you’ll find yourself more tame in other situations that would normally upset you.