Ugh. Are we there yet?
There are some seriously bad drivers out there. The person who pulls out in front of you, forcing you to jam your foot on the brake. The texting driver who crosses the line, making you slow down to avoid a head-on collision. The person who lazily left-turns into your lane rather than the designated one. There are so many bad drivers on the road that it can often make a person feel like they’re trapped in a videogame.
The devolution of driving skills may be happening as driver’s education classes are no longer taught in school, and because there is more technology to distract us than ever before. Or it may simply be that there will always be drivers who don’t understand the basic rules of the road. Clearly, no matter what the cause, defensive driving will continue to be more important than ever.
One thing is for certain, however: getting angry and losing one’s temper never diminishes a bad situation, no matter how satisfying it feels in the moment. We know from news stories that people can take road rage too far. Many have pointlessly died because rather than moving on, they were infuriated by another’s poor driving, and reacted in a dangerous manner.
Below are 5 ways to hopefully help you keep your cool in the middle of a heated driving moment:
1. To Err is Human; To Forgive, Drive-ine—
One of the quickest ways to not allow the bad motor maneuver of another person to ruin your day (or even your next ten minutes), is to remember that everybody makes mistakes. Yes, even you. Remember those “Pobody’s Nerfect” T-shirts kids wore back in the day? Truth, baby. Truth.
Rather than screaming at the person who just did a dumb driving move, maybe think about the times you didn’t perform at your best. Also keep in mind that next time, you might be the one who spaces out at the green light, or almost pulls into an occupied lane, etcetera. It happens. We’re flawed. We screw up. And that’s… okay.
So instead of feeling furious, try to feel humanity. If it boosts your ego to know that you’re a better driver than that yahoo you see making mistakes, then go with that, too. Whatever helps keep you calm in the face of another person’s failure is fine. Your blood pressure will thank you.
2. Care for the Cars—
Driving skills suffer when we’re going through a rough patch. Ever noticed someone crying in traffic, or an elderly person struggling to maintain independence? Driving through tears or cataracts is tough, and many don’t have anyone in their lives to help. That’s really sad, and if you honk or yell, you’re only making life worse for them. Not worth it, and not nice.
When you get behind a person driving poorly for no apparent reason, it can be frustrating, so kindly thinking of potential reasons for their performance might help. Maybe they just got dumped, or fired from a job. Maybe they don’t feel good, or are having an anxiety attack, and it’s all they can do to get to wherever they’re headed. Maybe they’re even headed to the doctor.
The fact is, we never know what another person is dealing with, and if we can focus on that fact, it may help us be less annoyed by bad behavior in any situation.
On the road, these types of compassionate thoughts can help us remember there’s a person driving the vehicle—however poorly—and perhaps not feel so furious.
Don’t forget there’s a human being with friends, family, and feelings behind the wheel of every car.
3. Zen Out—
As a lead-foot living in a state where everybody seems to drive 10 MPH under the speed limit, often while blocking the left lane, rather than keeping to the right, I’ve had to learn some coping mechanisms (beyond the one where I pretend I’m part of a parade, I mean).
One helpful mental device I use is to decide that the universe has me exactly where it wants me. I know it sounds a bit hippie, but it helps to think that maybe—as I creep along the road behind someone who apparently has nowhere to be, ever—just maybe I’m being held in place for a reason.
This is where I’m supposed to be right now, I might think to myself, as I repress the urge to honk at the double lane-blockers. Sometimes I’ll even go full Sliding Doors and imagine the accident I would have gotten into had I been 5 minutes further down the road. (Thank you, slow, seemingly oblivious people, for protecting me from danger!)
It sounds silly, for sure, but this thought process has helped me not sweat the small stuff. Because ultimately, unless you’re trying to get an organ to its transplant recipient or something else very serious, driving from point A to point B almost always qualifies as small stuff.
Traffic jams are frustrating, for sure. They aren’t, however, life or death situations. This too shall pass.
4. Cancel the Confrontation—
Glaring at a driver you feel has wronged you, or flipping them the finger might feel good in the moment, but we all know this confrontational approach can have harmful results.
Lots of folks are stubborn, and have tempers; yet some are worse than others. Many involved in road rage incidents have described a “black-out” type of fury where they felt out of control, as if on auto-pilot.
The problem with confrontation is that you have no idea with whom you’re engaging, and if they’re the kind of person who lets anger overcome their common sense, you might not survive what you thought was only an argument.
Be the bigger person and try not to start something that might end up ending your existence, rather than proving a point. Nobody listens well when they’re really mad anyhow, so try to let annoyances go and wish them peace on their journey instead. Chances are, they need it more than you do.
This guy is having a bad day. You don’t have to hug him, but engaging with him might be a bad idea.
5. Take the Time—
Guess what part of being a grown-up entails? Managing your time well. And guess whose fault it is if you’re late for work or an appointment? Yours.
It sucks, right? But if being consistently late is an issue for you, or traffic is unreliable on your commute, this can be incredibly stressful. And stress is bad for you. So rather than letting lateness send you into daily hypertension because the people on the road won’t move fast enough, why not leave early instead?
Get on the road fifteen to twenty minutes earlier than you normally need, find some good tunes, podcasts, or audio books for your car, and decide to enjoy the leisurely pace rather than rushing, cursing, and fretting all the way there.
Life is too short for road anxiety. Slow down, use hands-free entertainment to focus on something pleasant in the car, and most importantly, give yourself extra time so you won’t be mad at other people for something you absolutely can control.
I can’t manage my time because I’m too young to understand clocks. What’s your excuse?
Every motorist has moments when they’d like to have harsh words with another driver. It’s completely normal to feel upset when someone puts your well-being at risk.
But two wrongs don’t make a right, so if you can possibly use the above techniques to keep your cool, you might feel better about yourself once you calm down and realize you rose above the obvious reaction. Because you know from experience that being the bigger person always feels better in the long run, don’t you?
Happy and safe travels to you.