Ever had to deal with an irate motorist? Where I live, the question should probably be: “Ever come across a motorist who isn’t mouthing obscenities, flashing their lights, leaning on their horn and making hand gestures that defy explanation to your children sitting in the back?” Or maybe that says more about my driving than anything else. Be that as it may, it seems road rage is endemic. A staggering 81% of drivers have been victims of road rage, according to a recent survey by Carwow.co.uk.
It’s your shout…
Shouting would seem to be the most common expression of anger. But aggressive or dangerous driving and verbal abuse are also regular occurrences. And one in five drivers has been threatened in a road rage incident. But if road rage is so common, how come 51% of us claim we never give in to our aggression? Is it really the case that only 30% of us allow anger to get the better of us once or twice a month, as the survey suggests – or are we too ashamed to ’fess up and admit we do our fair share of yelling and gesticulating?
The authorities have tried to crack down on road rage by introducing £100 penalties for poor driving habits, such as tailgating and lane hogging. Quite whether this will have the desired effect remains to be seen. After all, if you’re prone to tantrums that make your veins stand out on your temples, are you really going to be able to modify your behaviour at will? The root of the problem is surely woven into how cars and driving affect our psychology. Most of us behave differently when we’re driving. We lose our inhibitions because we feel anonymous and immune. In other words, we make rude gestures at other motorists behind the wheel that we would never dream of making face to face.
Fighting the fury
So while it’s tempting to blame road rage on a specific group of problem drivers, we should all acknowledge our potential to lose our rags and think about how we can avoid confrontation, stress and accidents. Here’s a few suggestions:
allow plenty of time for your journey. If you are late, you are much more likely to be aggressive
don’t get behind the wheel if you are upset, angry or unwell (or hungover – a disastrous idea for all manner of reasons, not least the fact that you’re probably still over the limit)
don’t allow yourself to be distracted by music, phones, maps or passengers
do your best not to antagonize other drivers. So, no lane hogging, inappropriate use of the horn, flashing your headlights, tailgating or cutting-up
wave an apology if you make a mistake as the acknowledgement can defuse a potentially explosive situation
don’t competing with other drivers. It’s a public highway, not a racetrack
if someone else is driving aggressively, don’t make eye contact, shout or gesticulate.
What if you’re the victim?
It’s probably happened to all of us. You suddenly find yourself on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse and aggressive behaviour.
So what’s the best strategy?
Tailgaters can be particularly intimidating, but you should never compromise your own safety. So, don’t speed up or brake suddenly. Instead, try and find a safe way to let the tailgater pass. For example, you might drive twice round a roundabout. If a driver is persistently aggressive, you might want to head to a safe, public place and call the police. Never allow an angry driver to follow you home. And if the motorist gets out of the car to approach you, lock the doors and don’t open the window. It can also help to make a note of the registration number and a description of the driver and the car.
Temper your temper
It’s not always easy to stay calm on the roads, especially if you are stuck in heavy traffic or cut up by an inconsiderate motorist. But losing your temper isn’t going to help. In fact, it is more likely to make things worse.
So next time you feel the anger rising, take a deep breath, smile and count to 10.