PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM ROAD RAGE
(Whether It's Your Own Or Someone Else's Anger)
Decker M.A., L.P.
Almost all drivers get angry and frustrated at times, but
aggressivve driving and road rage go well beyond the normal
and natural feeling of anger. However, it isn't just "kooks,"
"crazies," and criminals who have the potential
to become road ragers. The best way to cope with road rage
is to avoid being an angry, hostile, and vengeful driver yourself.
Unfortunately, few people actually see themselves as part
of the problem, thus everyone else opn the road becomes "an
idiot" if they are doing things that a person doesn't
like. An important part of changing the ever-increasing atmosphere
of anger, fear and intimidation that ixists on today's roadways
is to take a close look at yourself and how you react in driving
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOU HAVE AN ANGER PROBLEM
WHEN YOU DRIVE?
Look at the following scenarios. All of them have the potential
to lead to aggressive driving or a road rage incident where
someone may be hurt or killed.
- Have there been times when you started muttering or cursing
under your breath, saying things like:
"Keep pedaling, lady" or
"That light's not going to get any greener, yo-yo"
- Have you ever sped up to block someone's lane change,
slowed down in the left lane to frustrate a driver who is
tailgating you, abruptly changed lanes without using your
turn signal, or followed another driver too closely when
you wanted to pass?
- Have you ever yelled or cursed at other drivers, made
obscene gestures to communicate your distress, or moved your
car toward another vehicle to intimidate or punish someone
for something they have done?
- Do you feel entitled to "special treatment"
when you drive because of who youare, how important you think
you are, the job you have how much money you make, or for
any otehr reason, which means that others should "clear
a path and get out of the way" so as not to interfere
with where you aer going?
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HANDLE ANGER ON THE
HIGHWAYS MORE EFFECTIVELY?
- Tune into your own emotional state both before
and as you enter your car to drive. Stop and ask yourself:
- "Am I feeling tense right now?"
- "Have I had a difficult or stressful day?"
- "Am I worried, anxious or frustrated about something
else going on in my life?"
- "Am I running late and feeling pressured about
getting somewhere on time or having too many things to
- Start to become more aware of the driving situations
and the types of drivers that trigger anger in you. Add
these cues and triggers to an excalation prevention plan
for the times when you are in the car.
- Slow down (your car's speed, your heart
rate and physical self, and your mind)
- Leave earlier and give yourself more time to get places
- Learn to relax when you're driving, especially when
you're feeling fearful, tense or angry and actively use
relaxation and stress reduction strategies in the car:
-Take deep breaths
-Count to 10 (or 100)
-Listen to calming music
-Listen to a book on tape
-Avoid talk radio
-Talk to and emotionally connect with your passengers
- Focus on actually enjoying your time in the car
vs. worrying and raging
- Don't take other drivers' behavior and traffic problems
as a challenge or a personal affront
- Don't personalize other drivers' behaviors
- Don't respond to others' provocative behavior with
offensive behavior of your own
-Don't glare, stare or even look at other drivers
-Looking at someone in a driving situation is often perceived
as a "challenge" by them
-Once eye contact is made, you and the other person are
"engaged" with one another and , potentially,
"off you go"
- Don't become reactive and retaliate
-You'll never be able to teach the other driver a "lesson"
or correct the other mororist's bad driving habits
- Let go to the idea that you should be able to control
people and situations when you're driving
-The only person you can truly control is yourself
- Realize that other drivers may be trying to "get
a rise out of you:"
-Don't give them the satisfaction and become their "puppet"
or put yourself or your family in danger
-You know absolutely nothing about the other drivers (even
though you may think you do):
-They might be drunk or on drugs
-They might be angry about a fight they just had with a
-They might be carrying a gun
- Re-think your attitude about driving
- Actively question your unrealistic and destructive attitudes
and expectations of yourself and others
- Intervene in any entitled attitudes about who you believe
yourself to be:
-"I am a better driver than other people"
-"I should have things the way I want them to be
whenever I'm driving"
-"I'm too important / wealthy / successful to have
to go by the rules that other motorists have to follow"
- Drive by the "golden rule:"
-Treat other drivers as you would want to be treated
- Allow for the idea that others may make mistakes around
-Think about the mistakes you've made in the car - everyone
- Actively look for ways to actually enjoy yourself in
-e.g. connecting with other passengers, listening to books
on tape, tuning your radio to enjoyable music
- Stop viewing other drivers as "the enemy"
-Make driving a cooperative rather than a competitive endeavor
- Notice what you're saying to yourself
- Your thoughts and self-talk are powerful and demonstrate
your attitude toward yourself and others. They can either:
-Create more anger and escalate you further or
-Help you look at driving situations wiht a more positive
perspective and actually calm yourself down
- When you start muttering negative comments to yourself,
you are escalating!
-"Move it or park it, grandpa!"
-"What's the matter with that jerk?"
-"Nobody gets away with doing that to me!"
- Look for alternative explanations about what's happening
-Rather than assuming the worst, start assuming that there
might actually be a valid reason for the other driver's
actions, even if they don't make much sense to you
-At a minimum, start assuming that they're not out to get
-Maybe the person who cut in front of you: a)couldn't see
you in their mirrors, b)is tired from a long and stressful
day at work
-Maybe that speeder or tailgater is: a)trying to get home
to handle a crisis, b)rushing to the hospital to be with
a friend or relative
- Don't put yourself down for actually handling your frustration
and desire for vengeance effectively
-Taking care of yourself and your loved ones by not over-reacting
to other drivers doesn't mean you're a "wimp,"
a "loser" or a "doormat"
- Be aware that you are continually making choices
- Think about your choice points - these are the times
when you can disengage and break out of your own escalation
and the power struggle with the other driver
-You are never really "out of control"
although you may feel "out of control" at times.
For example, when someone approaches you fast from behind
when you are in the left lane:
-Do you tap or pump your brakes?
-Do you slow down?
-Do you look at them as they drive by?
-Do you speed up to stay even with them as they go by?
-Do you pull close behind and tailgate them as soon as
they are past you?
-Do you flash them with your bright lights?
...all of these are clear choices!
- Think about the potential consequences
of explosive anger on the highways:
- The physical "wear and tear" on your body
- Property damage / an increase in your insurance premiums
if you get into an accident / time and energy spent trying
to resolve the claim
- Being arrested, time and money once you are involved
with the legal system, and time in jail
- Taking home the stress and anger from driving so that
it affects your time and relationships with the people
- The example you are setting for your children about
how to drive
-Ask yourself, "What am I teaching my children
about driving, anger and respect for other people?"
- The fear you create in others who are in the car with
-Ask yourself: "How does or could my explosive
reaction affect the passengers in my car?"
- Injury or death to you, your family members or others
-Ask yourself: "Is this situation in the car worth
losing my life or the lives of my partner and children?"
- Don't stop and don't drive to your home if you
are being harassed by someone in another car
- Pulling over to the side of the road to "talk"
has the potential to lead to an explosive verbal or physical
- Don't let an angry driver know where you live
- Drive to a public place if you are being followed
-Police or fire station
- If you carry a cell phone, report aggressive driving
to the police, whether it affects you or others
on the highway
- Seeing you make a call might discourage an unwanted
- Stay away from and don't try to intervene yourself with
aggressive drivers who are harassing others but do call
and report this behavior to the police if at all possible
- If you think you might have an anger problem in
the car, ask others about it and listen to what
they have to say to you
- Use other people as a "reality test:"
-Listen to and notice their feedback, both verbal and non-verbal,
when they are in the car with you
- Get some help with your anger if you need it!
- Pay attention as you drive: "expect the unexpected"
- A vehicle is a potentially lethal weapon in your hands
or anyone else's
- Think about potentially problematic situations beforehand
to come up with effective solutions if they actually occur
- Some specific and practical driving tips related
to anger in the car
- Remember that some drivers think you're doing things
to personally antagonize them ...even when you're not!
- Remember that some drivers often make a personality
assessment of you with just the information they get by
seeing the way you look and the car you drive or the information
you have on the vehicle
-Be aware that bumber stickers, personalized auto licenses
and other displays may be offensive to other drivers and
provoke a confrontation
- Don't tailgate
- Don't tap your brakes to try to slow someone down or
get them to back off from your bumper
- Don't flash your bright lights at others
- Don't change lanes abruptly
- Use your turn signals before you make a move
- Don't block the passing lane even if you're going at
or above the speed limit
- Don't make obscene or threatening gestures
- Use your horn sparingly and very carefully
-i.e. your "polite honk" can be easily misinterpreted
- Don't let your cell phone, eating, reading or make-up
become a distraction that interferes with your concentration
or your driving
- Don't carry an object or weapon "for protection"
-e.g. A baseball bat, golf club, a knife
- Wave in a friendly way to express gratitude for others'
politive driving behaviors
© 1990 David J. Decker, MA, LP
Phone: 612-725-8402 or 651-646-4325 - www.ANGEResources.com