Do you ever think that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? George Carlin posed this question and I think it is a good one in evaluating our own tolerance for others on the road. Often times we become very self-centered while we are in our vehicle as the body of armor tends to strip away the humanity of the other metal box drivers around us. We can even be so tempted to subconsciously believe that everyone is out to get us when we need to be somewhere. This of course is not true as you are most likely not out driving around to annoy other people.
Just like outside your vehicle, you cannot control other people, only how you react to them. Here are a few helpful tips and strategies to help alleviate your road rage tendency.
- Take ownership of your schedule. If you have left late for something, then it is not the fault of the slow, old lady in front of you. Give yourself adequate time to get where you need to be and you will enjoy the journey that much more - and have better fuel efficiency.
- If you find your stress or anxiety level rising, take a few deep breathes allowing your body to calm rather than give in to the impulse to control.
- Imagine the people in the other vehicles as people you care about. They are someone’s parent, sibling, grandparent, child or friend.
- Remember to drive defensively rather than offensively. You never know when someone recklessly driving or “out of it” may have just gotten a call that their wife is labor, kid passed out, parent had a heart attack, etc.
- When you find yourself degrading someone else with either a body part or your language, stop and ask yourself if you have ever done the very same thing. Switched lanes without a turn signal? Forgot to dim your brights? Had one too many before you got on the road? Missed a stop sign? Cut someone off for a better parking spot? I would also guess you have been too preoccupied with something (food, phone, makeup, kids, etc) to focus on being the best driver you can be. Give other’s the same grace you’ve once received and you may discover your stress level gradually levels out.
- Check your own emotions. Difficult or different people have a way of exposing our hearts. And we behave out of the desires of our heart. You may find you struggle with pride or self-righteousness and the solitude of your vehicle is a great place to work on developing respect and empathy towards others, even when they don’t “deserve” it. No one is a perfect driver and that includes you as well.
I close with a borrowed joke for your enjoyment…
A driver did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.
The tailgating woman behind him went ballistic, pounding on her horn and screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to drive through the intersection with him. Still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer.
The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, "I'm awfully sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the guy off in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the "Choose Life" license plate holder, the "What Would Jesus Do?" bumper sticker, the "Follow me to Sunday School" bumper sticker and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk.
"Naturally, I assumed you had stolen the car."