Managing Road Rage: Tips for Staying Calm and Avoiding Aggressive Driving Behaviors 

In the United States, most people spend a good portion of their lives in cars. In crowded areas, navigating through heavy traffic can be an annoying yet constant fact of life. When drivers become angry and aggressive and drive recklessly, it is referred to as having “road rage.” Road rage endangers the aggressive driver and other motorists with whom they share the road. 

Psychologists have performed many studies to determine why some people are more prone to road rage and ways to keep them from becoming hazards on the road. Their research points to younger male drivers being the most susceptible to incidents of road rage. While road rage becomes more prevalent with every passing year, there are ways to settle down and de-escalate the situation.  

Causes of Road Rage

According to the car accident lawyers at Ramsey Law Group, various factors are thought to be the root causes of road rage. Some of the triggers for road rage incidents are listed below: 

  • Environmental factors like heavy traffic
  • Displaced anger
  • Intensely stressful lifestyles
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph.D., of Colorado State University, conducted a study focusing on road rage. In this study, he outlined five ways that self-identified “high anger drivers” differ from “low anger drivers.” These five factors are as follows: 

  1. High-anger drivers indulge in belligerent, confrontational thinking. High-anger motorists often express disbelief and hostility over the way others drive. It is not uncommon for them to fantasize about revenge or physically harming the other driver. 
  2. Those who are more likely to participate in aggressive behaviors drive more aggressively and take more driving risks. They consistently exceed the speed limit by 10 to 20 mph, weaving in and out of traffic and driving too close to the driver in front of them, often pushing them to speed up. These drivers refuse to slow down at yellow lights and run right through the intersection even after the stop light signals for them to stop. 
  3. High-anger drivers swear and yell at other drivers. They blow their horns to show anger and aggression. High-anger drivers not only experience anger when they are driving but are measurably angrier throughout their lives.
  4. Drivers who are more prone to road rage had double the number of car accidents than low-anger drivers in driving simulations. They are given more tickets for speeding and other traffic violations as well.
  5. Road-rage-prone drivers exhibit anger, anxiety, and impulsiveness more so than low-anger motorists. Because of their lack of anger management skills, they are more likely to behave erratically when driving. 

Tips to Manage Road Rage

If you experience road rage when driving, there are ways to curb that behavior. Listed below are some tips that could help you conduct yourself less aggressively. 

  1. Utilize relaxation techniques to calm down. These include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. Focus on remaining calm, even if you feel triggered by stressful situations.
  2. Be mindful of your route. Avoid areas with heavy traffic or road work to bypass areas that add to your driving stress.
  3. Listen to calming music. Music calms the savage beast, so they say. It can have a calming effect on aggressive drivers as well. 
  4. Make an effort not to provoke other motorists. When you share the road with another aggressive driver, it can be double the trouble. Avoid making eye contact with them, do not use your horn or make aggressive hand gestures that can cause the situation to escalate.
  5. Take frequent rest breaks if you are feeling anxious. Stretch your legs, walk around your car, have a decaffeinated drink, take some deep breaths, and reset so you can focus on your driving and not your emotions.
  6. Avoid getting too close to other motorists, and do not tailgate or switch lanes recklessly. These behaviors do nothing to reduce stress. 
  7. Maintain focus on the road, and do not use your telephone or eat or engage in any other conduct that could be distracting. This way, you will not have close calls that provoke negative emotions.
  8. Seek counseling if you find that your struggle with road rage is a constant one. A therapist can offer training in calming yourself so that you do not have anger issues that interfere with safe driving. 

Road Rage Endangers Everyone

If you find that you experience emotions that lead to behaviors that endanger yourself and others, do everyone a favor and employ some of the techniques listed above. If the first seven tips fail to work, seek counseling. The life you save by getting your emotions in check might be your own. 

Steven Hatman
Steven Hatman

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