So how do we avoid becoming a road warrior? It requires both a stronger focus on our driving habits and a shift in our attitude toward driving. There are some specific things you can do to help reduce your vulnerability to giving in to road rage, but the bottom line is that it takes commitment.
Here are some building blocks you can use to help avoid going off the deep end while driving your car:
- Make sure you're getting enough sleep. Driving without enough rest can make you more irritable and dangerous.
- Try to give yourself plenty of time to get to where you're going. Often, frustrations bubble up when we feel we're running out of time, especially in traffic. Another strategy is to accept that you're running late, and you can't do anything about it.
- Listen to relaxing music and concentrate on breathing. Try to avoid aggressive thoughts and concentrate on something neutral instead. The more you focus on a trigger, the more likely you'll make yourself angry.
- Don't show displeasure to other drivers. There's a good chance that whatever has ticked you off was a mistake on the other driver's part. It's very unlikely the other driver is singling you out, and even if he is, it's not worth it to follow suit. So resist the urge to honk your horn, curse and go through the array of obscene gestures in your repertoire.
- Avoid venting. It isn't helpful and can actually increase your elevated sense of danger and frustration. There's also the chance that the driver will see you and react in kind, escalating the situation. As difficult as it may seem, it's better to avoid venting your frustrations. Instead, assume the driver doesn't mean to be unsafe or thoughtless [source: Dr. Driving.org].
Self-assessment and self-control are key components to keeping your cool. First, you have to recognize the moment you have a choice whether or not to act in anger. Then you have to develop the willpower to choose not to indulge in negative behavior. Dr. James says that such a change may take a long time and involves changing perspectives about other drivers as much as it does changing your own driving behavior.
In the next section, we'll look at some sobering statistics on road rage.