Every decade or so, Americans are exposed to a new threat to safety on our roads. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mothers Against Drunk Driving increased our vigilance in addressing the problem of drivers impaired by alcohol. In the 1990s, aggressive driving earned the name “road rage” and became a topic of nightly news programs and prime time specials. Since the dawn of the smartphone age, our focus on distracted driving has moved to the forefront of automotive safety concerns.
While our efforts to reduce crashes, injuries and deaths are effective, none of these problems have completely gone away. Despite a recent push to eliminate distracted driving through awareness and law enforcement, drivers still pick up the phone to text or go online while behind the wheel. Driving under the influence of alcohol is still extremely dangerous yet relatively common. And any driver will tell you that road rage is still a problem.
It’s not too surprising that today’s drivers sometimes become aggressive in traffic. We can make conscious decisions to not drink and drive or to leave the phone alone to better concentrate on the road. But driving, especially in heavy traffic, can be frustrating. Road rage seems to well up inside of us, caused by anger and lack of control. It may seem difficult to control, but drivers don’t have to become frustrated by traffic. The following simple tips can help you stay calm and safe.
- Give yourself time. If you have plenty of time to reach your destination, you’re less likely to become anxious.
- Avoid engagement. If another driver cuts you off or uses an obscene gesture, they may be experiencing road rage. Stay away. Don’t speed up and pass. Instead, hang back, stay focused on your trip and avoid engaging the aggressive driver with eye contact, using the horn or other responses.
- Leave plenty of space. Allowing ample space between your vehicle and the one in front of you is not just good etiquette, it’s good safety, too.
- Follow the rules. Your car is equipped with turn signals so that you can let other vehicles know your intentions. Proper use improves safety and sets a good example.
- Let it go. You can’t control traffic, but you can control your own behavior. Observe the golden rule and remain courteous and calm even when other drivers are behaving dangerously.
Many drivers spend the majority of their time behind the wheel driving wide, multi-lane roads and highways. These are ripe for road rage because they give drivers plenty of opportunities to weave through traffic, squeezing between cars for a “better” position. Instead of contributing to the chaos, take a deep breath and behave calmly. You can control how you feel. Making a conscious decision to drive in a safe and courteous manner will benefit you and everyone around you, too.
What do you do to stay calm behind the wheel? Listen to mellow music? Take deep breaths? Pray? Let us know in the comments below.
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Nick Palermo is a freelance automotive writer and NAPA Know How blogger. Since becoming an auto news and reviews contributor at AutoTrader.com in 2011, he has broadened his coverage of the automotive industry to include topics like new car technology, antiques and classics, DIY maintenance and repair, industry news and motorsports. A committed advocate for automotive media professionals, Nick is a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.