Image by: Alan Cleaver
By London Foster
If you’ve been part of or have witnessed a road rage incident than you are probably familiar with how badly they can escalate. It seems like every year, there is someone who is badly hurt or even murdered during fits of rage while commuting to and fro. The NHTSA ( The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) claims that as many as 6,800,000 cases of road rage are reported each year and that as many as 60% of drivers are considered as unsafe to others, including strangers as well as people they know.
Just exactly what causes road rage? Well according to Barry Markell, PhD, a psychotherapist in Park Ridge, Illinois, rats are usually fine until they are overcrowded. That’s when the claws come out. The same thing happens to drivers. More people than ever are on the road and when there are too many people at one place at one time, trying to take the same route, bad things can happen. Sadly, road rage is also the #1 cause of death for children as well.
Another reason why people are prone to react more when in a car than, say in a long line or waiting to use the ATM machine is that being in a vehicle creates a barrier. To the outside world, you are identified by your car. So when someone cuts you off or slows down in front of you, you’re less likely to think of that person as a human, with feelings and as a person that has a life and a family to go home to.
Sadly, more and more people are being killed as a result of road rage. Earlier this year in Las Vegas, one woman actually went searching for the person who had wronged her during a bout of road rage. Taking her older son, armed with a gun, she ended up being shot and killed. It’s cases like these that make you wonder, what exactly goes through someone’s mind to get so angry at a stranger when all you have to do is drive away?
One way to solve the issue of being the aggressor or being the victim on the road starts with you. How you react plays an important role in eliminating road rage. Here are some ways to keeping your sanity during your morning commute
#1) Distract Yourself
It’s only natural to get worked up over something when you felt as though you’ve been slighted. However, just because someone does you wrong, doesn’t mean you have to react. Anger is a personal choice and it’s up to you to prevent the situation from getting worse than what it is.
One method that always helps me during rush hour is to play my favorite music with the windows up. Nice, relaxing music though. No radio or commercials with loud noises and talking. When I’m singing along, I’m in my happy zone. I’m unable to hear any potential screaming anger, which allows me to relax. Honking and other forms of aggression on the road can create anxiety, which can affect good driving and judgement, especially if you live in the city.
It’s better to focus on yourself and your destination, rather than the people around you (but be cautious, of course). More than likely you will never see that person again, so what’s the point of getting all bent out of shape over nothing. Chances are, they wouldn’t bat an eyelash face-to-face.
#2) Stop Lights Are Opportunities
Driving all day can tire me out, which is why I’ve taken those little moments to relish during high traffic and stop lights. Instead of getting frustrated by the lack of movement ahead of me, if I’m especially tired, I take advantage and use those times to rest and refocus my energy of being in the moment.
When I’m at a stoplight, those little moments of rest allow me to think about something else other than driving for a moment. I can rest my head on the headrest, stretch my legs a bit (in neutral) and even take in the scenery. I believe that road rage is a result of people’s inability to appreciate what’s around them. So many people don’t have cars, take a minute to be thankful that you even have a vehicle to drive around in instead of complaining about someone else’s driving
People are less engaged and less apt to be helpful in cars because they see each other as moving hunks of metal. This isn’t the case at all. People on the road are real, live people with important lives to lead. From the pedestrian, to the elderly man who is walking rather slow, to the homeless person who is begging for money at stop lights. Everyone has someone who loves them and once we realize that we all make up the traffic, the better off we will be on the road.
#3) Try Breathing Exercises
One easy solution to calming road rage is to get up an hour earlier than you normally would and ease into your day, rather than jam-packing the morning in only to aggressive on the road later because you’re late to a very important meeting. If you have kids, get their lunches and baths prepared the night before. If not, then taking your time in the morning will help to soothe you for the rest of your day, even when someone else is being a jerk.
Breathing exercises are great also, giving you a calm sense of serenity in an environment that is set on amping you up. Pranayama meditation helps you to focus and calm your mind, especially for that busy day ahead. Creating a relaxed environment for yourself will also help you to stop and feel thankful for the things around you, even that stranger that honked at you for no reason. Realizing that we are all on this earth together and that we are not islands helps to center us and go with the flow of life, even when people are being themselves. We are all connected and it’s beautiful.
Have you ever experienced or been a victim of road rage? Perhaps you have your own techniques to calming doewn that you would like to share with us! Your suggestions are appreciated!