Ever gotten into such a tizzy in the car that your head nearly exploded? You're not the only one. SafeMotorist.com reports that 66% of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving — or "road rage" — and half of drivers who are on the receiving end of an aggressive behavior, such as horn honking, a rude gesture, or tailgating admit to responding with aggressive behavior themselves. (See also: 12 Ways You're Driving Your Coworkers Insane)
You can help prevent road rage, however, if you drive responsibly and recognize the common catalysts for most incidents. In no particular order, here are 16 highly contentious vehicular sins you might be committing that have the potential to escalate to a dangerous level.
1. Driving Slow in the Fast Lane and Refusing to Move Over
It's hard choose the most offensive of all driving offenses from this list, but this one is definitely near the top. There's nothing that will have me calling you all kinds of names not fit for church if you're driving five miles or more under the speed limit in the left lane of the highway. And on two lane highways? It's called the "passing lane." If you aren't passing, move right!
2. Keeping Pace With the Car Next to You So No One Behind Can Pass
Yeah, you know this guy. He's driving the exact speed as the car next to him so nobody behind can pass. Not only is this really creepy — I don't want some stranger staring me down for an extended period of time while I'm driving — but it's also downright rude. Speed up or fall back so I can escape this torture already.
3. Riding Your Brakes for No Apparent Reason
What's that ahead of you? Oh, nothing? You just want to press on your brakes every 10 seconds because you feel like 25 in a 35-mile-per-hour zone is too fast? Or maybe you're just a poor driver who needs to be reevaluated by the DMV. Whatever the case, get with the program pal; people are losing their patience.
4. Endangering Lives Because You're Fiddling With Your Phone
Everybody thinks that they've mastered the skill — and maybe you have — but you also have to consider the unpredictability of other drivers on the road who can do any number of things to affect your own driving. The National Safety Council reports that more than 25% of all automobile crashes are associated with cell phone use these days. And if you're not paying attention, the potential outcome of this situation can be worse than you've ever imagined. If you're at fault, you might be paying for it for the rest of your life. Listen to Oprah, folks; don't text (or talk or browse the Internet) and drive.
5. Flying Into a Rage for No Good Reason
Did the driver that offended you really do something so bad that you now have to go to confession this weekend? Probably not, so why did you react so aggressively?
Author Rachelle Henry thinks that it's important to not project your feelings onto others — especially when in the car — if they really didn't do anything wrong. "When I had a job that I hated, every morning during my morning commute someone managed to upset me by doing something 'stupid,' and I would become irrationally angry," she says. "When I no longer had that job and was happy, I let things roll off of me." It's all about perspective, my friends. Evaluate your happiness level to see if there's a reason you're lashing out prematurely.
6. Failing to Use Blinkers When Changing Lanes
How am I supposed to know that you'd like to get in front of me or that you'd like to glide across three lanes of traffic in an attempt to avoid missing the exit if you don't have a blinker on? I don't — which makes for an excellent case in court when you cause a crash.
7. Speeding Up When You Spot Someone Trying to Merge
It never fails that as soon as I turn my blinker on to merge into another lane, the person trailing behind me in the intended lane suddenly gets a lead foot. It's one of those give-me-strength moments that are best handled with regulated breathing and a long count to 10.
8. Turning on Your Blinker Two Seconds Before You Turn
It would be nice to know that you'd like to make that right turn more than a few seconds before you make it. But what do you care, right? If I rear-end you, it's my fault regardless. Don't be that person.
9. Weaseling Your Way Into the On- or Off-Ramp at the Last Second
Listen, I live in Manhattan, where traffic is treacherous nearly 24/7, so I understand the plight of not wanting to wait in line for another dreadful few minutes to take the next exit. But have some compassion. The folks ahead of you have been waiting longer than you, so it's a real you-know-what move to cut them off so you can get home quicker.
It might also be helpful to know that you could become fodder for someone else when you act a fool, like so many people did for Kerri Kochanski, author of 1,001 People That Suck, which features an entire chapter on road rage. "One day I was so aggravated by a driver who cut me off," she says. "Instead of stalking and confronting the driver, or turning my anger inward, I decided to write a book about this person — and other anonymous people who do rude, crappy things and get away with it. Maybe they wouldn't suffer a consequence from their actions, but at least they would be 'officially' labeled as 'people that suck.' And that would make me feel better, and it would prevent me from landing in jail."
10. Blasting Your Horn Prematurely
The light just turned green. Give the driver a break before you fly into a blaring, obnoxious fit because they didn't take off like it's the Daytona 500 the moment the light changed.
We're all guilty of this, which is the problem. Rubbernecking jams up the road so badly that the delay can last for miles — even when the accident is on the other side of the road. As soon as you pass it, however, it's a wide-open highway. Why, whhhhhy do we do this to ourselves?
12. Bicyclists Who Don't Follow the Rules of the Road
I've seen bicyclists who have purposefully gone the opposite way of oncoming traffic, those who have blown through red lights with absolutely no regard for drivers, and riders who take up a regular traffic lane with their 14-miles-per-hour nonsense and don't give a lick that anybody's behind them. Note to all the bicyclists out there: You're riding a bike; the rest of us are driving cars. One hurts a whole lot more than the other, so be courteous and obey the rules.
13. Holding Up Turning Traffic When You're Not Turning in a Turn-Only Lane
Many times this is a mistake, so I'll just impart on you that it's important to pay attention to the signs painted on the road ahead of you. If you're not turning, you shouldn't be in the turn-only lane holding up everybody else. That's a real good way to get beeped to death in some places.
14. Multitasking at the Wheel
We've already discussed how you shouldn't fiddle with your phone while you're driving, but there are other distractions that can cause problems on the road. Here's a quick list of no-nos: Eating, putting on makeup, reading a newspaper (I have seen this in action and I was in total shock), doing anything with the person in the passenger seat that would be deemed illegal if you got caught, doing anything with yourself that would be deemed illegal if you got caught. Focus on safe driving so everybody gets home with all the parts with which they started the day.
15. Standing in a Parking Space to Save It
I believe in first-come, first-served, so if the vehicle is not around to claim a spot, you shouldn't have your body in it so nobody else can take it; that's not how this works.
Last holiday season I encountered a girl in a parking space that she refused to give up to four nice ladies in a car that pulled up because her "mother was on the way." She also claimed that her mother was handicapped, at which point I showed her the very available handicapped spot just across the street. She didn't want to hear any of it, refused to budge, and basically wore the four nice ladies down until they moved along. Of course, when her mother showed up (who was driving and also flipped the ladies off), the only handicap she appeared to have was an incredibly rude daughter.
16. Swooping Into a Parking Spot That Has Been Claimed by Another Driver
This is another personal situation I've dealt with, and maybe you have too. I drove around a busy parking lot on a Saturday afternoon for what seemed like forever until I finally found a spot. I put my blinker on and waited for the car to pull out so I could pull in. Before I had a chance, however, a car swooped in from the opposite direction and slid right in. And wouldn't you know that she had the audacity to start screaming at me when I expressed my frustration at her for being selfish and inconsiderate? Soooome people!
Do you have driving scenarios that are likely to send someone into road rage that you'd like to add? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments section below.
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- Listening to audio books is one good way to remain calm during a long commute.
Allow yourself plenty of time. Being late will make you anxious and impatient, so you'll be more likely to get angry at other drivers or make irresponsible driving decisions that will make them angry at you. Leaving yourself plenty of drive time will help you stay relaxed.
Relax your grip. If you begin to clench the steering wheel while driving, wiggle your fingers and then try to hold the wheel with a more relaxed grip. You will retain control of the car, while feeling less tense.
- You should only use cruise control in situations where you can drive safely at the same speed for extended periods of time – use manual control in stop-and-go traffic situations.
Take a deep breath. If you feel yourself getting tense and anxious, take several slow, deep breaths. This should calm you down. Roll your window down every now and then, to let in some fresh air.
Keep your car and its windshield clean. Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, clutter can cause stressful feelings. Trying to see through a dirty windshield, or struggling to clean a dirty windshield with the wiper fluid every few minutes, will also cause you feel anxious and tense – feelings which can quickly lead to road rage.
- Never try to pull over on the side of a busy street or highway – continue to the next exit, then find a safe place to stop the car.
- Try not to drive more than 3 hours at a time. If you are on a long road trip, take a break at least every 3 hours and pull over to stretch your legs.
Find alternate routes if necessary. If construction zones or rush hour highway traffic tend to make you edgy and more likely to express your road rage, find another way to get where you need to go. Use an online mapping system to look at alternate routes using calmer back roads that will make you less likely to get angry while driving.
Get plenty of sleep. Doctors generally recommend that adults get about 8 hours of sleep per night. If you are sleeping less than this, the accumulated sleep loss will seriously affect your mood. Being tired can lead to anger, resentment, and annoyance, all of which contribute to road rage.
- Some people enjoy passing you and then slowing down, for mysterious passive-aggressive reasons of their own. If possible, slow down enough to get behind a different car. Keep your distance from any driver who seems to be "playing games” with you.
Avoid distractions. Don't talk on the phone, text message, eat, or apply lipstick while driving. This could cause you to be caught off guard by other drivers' actions, fueling your road rage and causing a dangerous incident.
Shorten your commute. If you find yourself continually battling feelings of road rage, you may need to consider taking a different job or moving closer to your job, to shorten your commute. A high salary will not offset the unhappiness caused by spending too much time on the road, when you could be spending with family and friends, or engaging in activities you enjoy.
Take a road rage self-test. To find out whether your driving style is considered aggressive, take an online self-test. Being aware of your own tendencies toward road rage may make you more aware of the need to control it.
- IED may contribute to other factors such as depression, substance abuse, anxiety, and a difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.
- Your doctor may suggest therapy or medication to help control IED symptoms.