Have you noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a moron.”

George Carlin said that once, and I believe the observation has more than a grain of truth about it.

Our assessment on whether or not some other driver is screwing up seems based not so much on if they’re contravening the law — those are obvious signs — but more so if they are deviating from our more idiosyncratic, personal codes of driving behaviour.

That person following you, maybe three feet closer than you’re comfortable with? Well, he’s a maniac. That person backing up traffic while waiting to make a left, and not taking advantage of a dicey gap in on-coming traffic — a gap you would have surely grabbed? That person is a menace to society. That driver who approached an intersection with far too much caution, causing you to lose your God-given right to run that yellow light? Well, that person is a selfish oaf. How do they live with themselves?

Tolerance of other people’s driving is tested even more if that other person is your spouse or significant other.

Here’s comedian Rita Rudner on the topic: “When my husband and I are in the car, I usually let him drive. Because when I drive, he has a tendency to bite the dashboard.”

(I’m just going to move right along here and not discuss my wife’s driving.)

One strategy I’m trying, to stay cool behind the wheel, is imagining that whatever boneheaded move the other driver just did, was an aberration, a slip up they usually don’t make. But I’m not there yet. I generally assume they’re hardened, amoral criminal types, and it’s my duty to lay on as much horn as possible.

Another strategy I’m working on is shortening my list of driving pet peeves. Not there yet either.

The thing that has helped me the most, however, in the battle to stay calm, is anticipating debatable behaviour.

Advanced driving courses always instil the notion of self-defence. Quickly identify situations where an ill-advised move by the other driver will put you at risk, and assume the worst.

If they make the right move, that’s fine.

But if they cross your line, or the one that police actually use, and you’ve reacted correctly and gracefully and with a world-weary smirk, well, that’s even finer.

– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.