The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that road rage “involves a criminal act of violence, whereas aggressive driving can range from tailgating to speeding to running red lights.” The number of deaths related to road rage is difficult to track, but NHTSA estimates that aggressive driving accounts for about one-third of all crashes and about two-thirds of the resulting fatalities.
Increasingly congested roadways are a growing source of driver frustration, but studies suggest the real root of aggressive driving lies within each of us. Drivers can cope by taking an honest look at their driving behavior and attempting to reduce their stress level behind the wheel.
A national epidemic of sleepiness is a contributing factor to road rage, according to the National Sleep Foundation. We all know how cranky we get without enough sleep. It makes us prone to feelings of annoyance, resentment and even anger. Eight hours is still the recommended daily dose of sleep for adults.
Do you regularly whiz through your morning routine in a whirlwind of chaos, trying to make up time while on the road? Do you allow just enough time to drive to an appointment? Then you’re probably also more prone to speeding and losing temper. If you add 10 minutes to your expected travel time, you’ll have time to stop for gas, safely navigate those snowy roads or detour around road construction. Also, try preparing clothing, briefcases, children’s school bags and lunches the night before to minimize your morning rush. Extra time equals calmer driving.
Turn down the bass.
Without getting into the argument over “aggressive music makes people aggressive,” it makes sense that listening to relaxing music — or even a comedy channel on satellite radio — will make you less pumped up for action than a driving bass line. Try tuning in to classical or jazz to reduce stress. Or listen to an audiobook. It will also help drown out stressful traffic noise.
It’s not about you.
Perhaps another driver cut you off. Or the car in front of you is braking erratically. Before you assume the driver is getting off on your rising anger levels, realize that you, as an individual, are not the target. Perhaps the driver simply made a mistake or was just being oblivious. Maybe there’s a screaming baby, a loose pet or a crazed bee in the car. Maybe he was on a cell phone. The point is, don’t take things so personally. Hostility is toxic and risky.
We’re all bound to lose our cool at some point, but by planning ahead and keeping things in perspective, we can prevent our emotions from getting the best of us. Putting aggressive driving in park will help to ensure your own safety, as well as the safety of everyone around you.