Studies show that perceptions of "aggressive driving" vary across the country and your actions behind the wheel may mean very different things to different drivers. Learn some safety tips to keep you safe, and calm, on the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says road rage "is a criminal act of violence, and aggressive driving can range from tailgating to speeding to running red lights." The number of deaths caused by road rage is difficult to track, but NHTSA estimates that aggressive driving causes close to one-third of all crashes and around two-thirds of the resulting fatalities.
Congested roadways are a major source of driver frustration, and studies suggest the root of aggressive driving is within each of us. Drivers can cope by taking a serious look at their driving behavior and try to reduce their stress level when they are behind the wheel.
1. Get enough sleep
Sleepiness is a contributing reason for road rage, according to the National Sleep Foundation. We get cranky without enough sleep and become annoyed, resentful and even angry. Eight hours is the recommended daily sleep time for adults.
2. Plan ahead
If you just add 10 minutes or 15 minutes to your travel time, this gives you time to stop for gas, safely drive those wet or snowy roads and detour past road construction. Try getting clothing, briefcases, children's school bags and lunches ready the night before to slow your morning rush. More time means calmer driving.
3. Loosen up, then breathe deeply
If you find yourself clenching the steering wheel a lot, try loosening your grip - you can drive the car just as well. If your foot gets cramped, set the cruise control should traffic allow. If you're on a long road trip, take a break every 3 hours to get out and stretch. Trying to see through a dirty windshield also causes stress, so, before you go, fill up with washer. Occasionally roll down the window and breathe slowly and deeply.
4. It's not about you
Perhaps a driver cut you off. Or the car in front is braking erratically, try to realize you are not the target. Perhaps the driver made a mistake. Maybe there's a screaming baby or a loose pet in the car. Maybe he was on a cell phone. The point is, don't take things personally.
5. Hostility is toxic. And risky
People who are easily provoked to anger are about three times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those who control their anger, according to the American Psychological Association. Other health risks observed in hostile people include obesity, depression and stroke. Safe driving promotes a healthy heart! Giving into anger will not resolve an aggravating situation, it just might cause retaliation. Think "Is it worth endangering my life?"
6. Take the self-test
Tape-record yourself while driving. Hearing yourself swear or rant on tape may help you recognize and reduce dangerous behavior. Analyze your driving. Does any of the following sound like you?
- I often exceed the speed limit to get to work on time.
- I tailgate other drivers.
- I flash my lights and honk my horn to remind drivers when they upset me.
- I verbally abuse other drivers.
- I often weave in and out of traffic when I am in a hurry.
- I need to set bad drivers straight.
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be an aggressive driver.
10. Practice kindness
Simple courtesies, like allowing other drivers to merge or making an apology when you make a mistake, can make your driving experience positive for yourself and others. Treat other drivers like you would like to be treated yourself.
We're all likely to lose our cool sometimes, but by planning ahead and placing things in perspective, you can keep your emotions from getting the best of us. Put aggressive driving in park to ensure your own safety, as well as the safety of everyone you encounter on the road.
Used with permission of www.iii.org