Carved up at the crossroad? Brake-tested on the back lane? Learn how to control your descending red mist
Figures from Tyreshopper found a staggering 80% of Brits have fallen victim to road rage in the past year alone. Worryingly, the same poll shows 66% of traffic deaths are down to aggressive driving. We can all be guilty of experiencing that temporary loss of reason when a perfect stranger’s driving skills gets us riled up and yelling out the window. But what can we do to defuse the situation? Here are six things to consider.
It’s not our job to teach people we perceive as “poor drivers” a lesson, least of all while sharing the road with them. True, some of us are sticklers for standards, but we need to remember we are all human, we all make mistakes, and none of us is perfect – especially on Swindon’s Magic Roundabout. If you still have the urge to take things further after somebody’s apparent mistake almost caused a dangerous traffic incident, then simply grabbing footage on a dash cam and handing it to the relevant authorities could be a happy medium.
They cut you up, your mum and dad. But remember, the next generation of drivers are usually in the backseats of our cars. What sort of example are we setting them by effing and jeffing at someone in the next lane? Children learn and pick up on adult habits, which means the road rage will just roll on and on. Science calls it mindfulness, but it’s basically “setting an example”. Being mindful improves our cognitive functions, lowers anxiety and reduces distracting thoughts. Patience, too, is a virtue – or so we tell our children. Maybe it’s time we started to practise what we preach?
Driving is pretty simple. You have a steering wheel, some pedals, a couple of indicators and three mirrors. That said, as the clock ticks down towards the time we “want” to arrive at a destination, things get complicated. When traffic builds, panic sets in and logic goes out of the car window. Short cuts and quick moves are taken to catch up for lost time. But really, perhaps we should be leaving 30 minutes earlier for longer journeys. Why get mad at other drivers? It’s not their fault.
High speed road rage makes for great YouTube hits but the relationship between speed and anger is undeniable. We get stressed. We speed. We make mistakes. And then the rage takes over. According to the NHS, stress accounts for 40% of all work-related illnesses. Naturally, this stays with us when we get behind the wheel. A 2016 Brake and Direct Line survey found that stress at home and at work made 71% of Brits lose concentration while driving. We must learn to break this cycle. De-stressing and slowing down can do wonders. Remember the adage: “Everything matters, but nothing matters very much.”
We keep forgetting that it’s not all about the other driver’s reaction. The seeds may well have been sown by something we might have done. Did we tailgate the bloke in front? Did we hog the fast lane travelling slowly? Or maybe we made a gesture we shouldn’t have? Looking in the mirror (figuratively speaking, mind) and asking ourselves these honest questions from time to time certainly does no harm.
A recent American TV advert showed a classic case of road rage. A pickup truck driver gets cut up by a 4x4 driver, the former swerving in front of the latter. The mystery 4x4 driver appears, and is none other than world boxing champ Evander Holyfield. The lesson? When you confront somebody, you have no idea what you could be letting yourself in for. Be a good traffic neighbour – ofter the benefit of the doubt, or just be kind and let the rage go.