This brief article is prompted by a call I got from our local radio station asking if, at short notice, I would talk about road rage on their morning show. I agreed.
The premise was that the presenter was experiencing more in-car reactions and wanted to know more about it.
The piece was light-hearted but has a serious underlying point which is that getting angry in our car, most of the time, only serves to hurt us. If, however, it goes too far it can become a serious issue with road safety issues and personal safety issues.
Before I go any further this article is not written from a perspective of me being perfect. I am not.
There are 4 basic issues going on when we get road rage
Our own journey & how stressed we are.
If we are running late, have had more delays than we expected or just have a lot of other things on our mind and we are in a mildly stressed state to start with, our reactions to other road users are going to be more severe.
The lesson being: Planning our own journeys better and leaving enough time is likely to give us and other road users a better experience. Also, being aware of what is going on for us and making a decision to not off load any negative energy on to others is both healthy and helpful.
When we get cut up or we experience another person’s poor driving we can experience fear. That is natural. The challenge is how we deal with that. If our choice is to cover up our fear with anger and to hit the horn and gesticulate, then we could overly escalate a situation that does not need it.
The lesson being: Recognise that was scary. Realise you are the most important person here and that you are not going to let other’s poor driving turn you into a poor driver. Focus on returning your breathing to normal and choose not to react.
It seems that when we get in our car the boundaries of our ego extend even further than the car itself. Suddenly we become someone who feels entitled to demand respect from other road users. When we have that attitude, we are heading towards escalation again and that can be dangerous for you and for others.
The lesson being: If you now you are a good driver and if you know you are worthy of respect you do not need other road users to prove it. The road is not a battle ground for our egos.
Lack of Empathy
If we were more empathetic than we would have a great deal less road rage. That person cutting you up, driving too fast or cutting in to the queue may have really good reasons for doing it. It may not excuse their actions but you may understand a little better if you knew.
The problem is you cannot ask them. You can, however, imagine what may be going on for them. Maybe they are late for a really important meeting. Maybe they are rushing to a hospital to visit a sick relative. There could be many reasons why a perfectly normally reasonable person may be acting out of sorts.
The lesson being: Ask yourself, are you a perfect driver? Have you ever behaved in a away that could draw criticism of your driving? Would you ever do that deliberately? The chances are the answers to those questions are no, yes and no. The chances are, that is the same for the person you’re judging for being dangerous, inconsiderate etc.
Now they may be everything that you are judging them for but you judging them is not going to change them but it is going to get you closer to being an angry driver.
Our inability to empathise is why learner drivers have L plates and why newly qualified drivers often have P plates. Just because someone has been driving all their life does not mean they don’t deserve our consideration.
Finally, before you react, if you can, ask yourself…the way I am about to behave…would I do that if we were face to face talking to each other? The chances are you would not, so why do it when you are in a car.
Why do I recognise all of this? I see it all in me at different times. I am not perfect. I am a work in progress. I will continue to challenge myself to be better at responding to others rather than reacting. Please join me on that journey