Raging parents fail the driving stress test

There are times when we all find driving stressful. But throw children into the mix and a bad situation can quickly escalate and push even the most patient of parents over the edge into full-blown road rage.
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Picture the following scenario… You’ve been stuck in traffic for hours. You’re late, hungry and uncomfortable. And just as you switch lanes so you can cover a bit of ground, someone cuts you up and causes you to swerve, almost causing an accident. This is stressful. Now add in someone repeatedly kicking the back of your seat and voices screeching “Mummmy, mummy, MUMMY, I need a wee/ snack/ drink/ toy/ my brother/sister is hitting me in the face!” (delete as applicable). This is REALLY stressful. So this is when you snap, wind down the window, scream like a banshee (using what is politely termed ‘industrial’ language), and make an appropriate hand gesture at the offending driver. Understandable. Inevitable, maybe. But what kind of message are you giving your little darlings?

Under pressure

Research from the Goodyear Driving Academy has found one-in-five mums admits to road rage in front of their children. As a mother myself, who has had more than one journey where my blood pressure has exceeded healthy levels, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. At least it’s reassuring to know I’m not alone!

Oliver’s travails

Mum-of-two Jaime Oliver, 35, from Nottingham, admits that road rage has become a big issue for her.
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She said: “I drive with my children almost every day, dropping them at nursery and school, taking them to after-school classes or on general family trips. “I know I’ve got a few bad driving habits, mainly road rage, and I do sometimes lose my rag with other drivers in front of the children. “When it happens they look a bit shocked because it’s just not the way I usually behave in front of them, and I feel awful afterwards. It’s definitely something I need to control.”

Habitual problems

But road rage isn’t the only bad driving habit to which mums and dads confess. The research found that 14% of parents say they drive through red lights, while one in three dads and a quarter of mums have read text messages while on the road. A further one-in-10 mums and dads has tried to read a map, while nearly half of parents have eaten food, while driving.

Sins of the fathers (and mothers)

Despite our bad behaviour behind the wheel over a third of us don’t believe out driving has any effect on our children’s future attitudes and likely driving habits.
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Children, however, pick up on everything their parents do, so even if you think your behaviour won’t have an impact on them, it most definitely will. Having muttered under my breath several times about the driving skills of fellow motorists, I have already noticed my five and six-year-old sons shouting “IDIOT!” if someone is blocking our way. Fortunately neither nor I have resorted to expletives just yet, but I’m well aware that if I didn’t exercise restraint, they would certainly pick up on any I might use.

Generation games

Psychotherapist Christine Webber, who collaborated on the Goodyear study, said: “With driving, as with many other life skills, we absorb information and skills and habits from parents. When we are young, we accept what Mum and Dad do in a very uncritical way and what Mum or Dad do is often considered the norm, if not absolutely perfect. “So if parents want their children to grow up to be safe drivers, they really need to take a long hard look at their own driving behaviour – because their offspring is soaking up what they do like a sponge, and from a surprisingly young age." Are you prone to road rage in the family car? Has something you’ve said while driving subsequently been quoted back to you by an innocent little child – much to your embarrassment and the wrath of your spouse? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the box below 
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