Keeping your anger in check important when you’re driving



jeff mcintosh/canadian press


The highways are fast becoming the place for ill-favoured gestures and biting insults, but you should avoid getting aggravated, our columnist suggests.

You need only to drive for an hour in the city to witness impatient drivers, or even experience road rage. I can hear you saying, “Have you seen this idiot cutting people off from the right lane? And this other guy who cut into the line?”

What if, on occasion, that crazy driver was you?

You might say, no, of course not. You have nothing to do with those reckless drivers who speed at 140 km/h in the third lane on the highway, tailgating the driver in front of them, so that they will move to the right to let them pass. No, when you do it, it is more likely because the driver in front of you is going way too slow!

george osodi/associated press

You only need to drive in the city for an hour — or be stuck in traffic — to experience road rage, our columnist writes.

Admit it. And I also admit it. When other people are driving like maniacs, we are the first ones to berate them. But when we do it, we always have a good reason for it. Result: The highways are fast becoming the setting for ill-favoured gestures and biting insults.

Notice how true the following is. As you are stopped at a light waiting for it to turn green, a car stops beside yours. Its bumper is a couple of inches in front of yours. Without even realizing it, you move your car forward so that yours is now in front. Without a doubt, it is our “macho” side coming out, which moves to react this way.

Nevertheless, on the road it is better to share. And let others go. In fact, the rules are simple. It is following them all the time that seems to be problematic — but you should still make the effort to:

• Remain calm and considerate, even if others aren’t. Tell yourself one thing: You run the risk of meeting someone “crazier” than you are, maybe even someone who is waiting for an occasion to let their anger get the best of them.

• Give other people the benefit of the doubt. Is he slowing down? Perhaps he is looking for an exit, and God knows it has happened to you in the past as well. That guy is going way too fast? His wife might be giving birth at that very moment.

• Never exceed the speed limit when you drive — and not only when you aren’t in a rush, because that never happens! Reduce your stress by listening to soft music. A good tip: Always leave five minutes early. It is surprising to see how much others stop getting on your nerves when you do that.

• Never forget that, even though you cannot control what happens on the road, you can still master your own emotions and actions. Avoid getting aggravated; showing your frustration will only provoke the other driver. If he is showing hostility, avoid staring him in the eye; this could be interpreted as an act of provocation.

• Make nothing of it if another driver is pushing you into pulling over. Instead, head towards a public place where you will be able to get help, if need be. Take the vehicle’s licence plate number and call emergency services if you have a cellphone.

territorial instinct

ron bull/torstar news service

You wouldn’t cut in front of people waiting in line under normal circumstances. So why do it when you’re behind the wheel?

Road rage isn’t harmless: It creates victims. How can it be explained? An American study concluded that the automobile is an extension of our personal space and that the interior gives us anonymity, which makes us act like we never would in other circumstances.

Would you walk by everyone waiting in line at the bank machine? So why do it in a congested lane on the highway? Also, the car supposedly triggers a sort of territorial instinct within the driver. Any intrusion would then be perceived as malevolent. “You are passing me? I will do the same!” At the wheel of a powerful vehicle, surrounded by steel, with ABS brakes and airbags, it is so easy to feel invincible.