I used to be the poster child for road rage. Even though I was a mild-mannered individual most of the time, whenever I would sit behind the wheel of my car, I transformed into a first-class jerk. After one particular road rage incident which ended in a physical confrontation with another driver, I found myself handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser. A few days later, a judge did something that totally transformed my life: He sentenced me to complete an anger management program.
At first I was hesistant, and a bit offended. After all, in my eyes, I wasn’t the one with the problem, it was every other driver on the road! However, by the end of the 30-week course I learned to see the world differently, and the lessons I learned helped me deal with road rage. As a result, my life is much happier and filled with less stress, and now I actually enjoy long drives in my car. Here are a few of the things I have learned.
1. Stop judging people. For all you know, the driver who just passed you illegally at 20 miles-per-hour over the speed limit may not be a jerk at all. The driver might be on his way to take his pregnant wife to the delivery room. Perhaps the driver is racing home in response to a serious family crisis. For all you even know, the driver could be an emergency room surgeon racing to save someone’s life. The next time you feel angry because of a bad driver’s actions, ask yourself, “Do I really know why that driver is in such a hurry?” The answer will always be the same. You don’t.
2. Manage your time better. The times when I felt most angry behind the wheel were times when I was running late or behind schedule. If I had managed my time better and left for my destination a little earlier, that slow driver in front of me would not have made me angry at all. Most of the time, we are not angry at the other drivers, we are angry at ourselves for poor time management. We just find it easier to re-direct our anger and frustration at someone else.
3. Keep yourself entertained. Sing along to the radio. Count out-of-state license plates. Play games with your passengers. There are dozens of ways you can keep yourself entertained while you are behind the wheel. These diversions are healthy as long as they don’t distract you from driving. It is hard to become enraged when you are having a good time.
4. Play it safe. They say than an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true when driving. You can avoid road rage by steering clear of high-stress driving situations. Take the scenic route instead of the expressway. Don’t drive in bad weather. Allow extra time to reach your destination. Don’t put yourself in a situation where it will become easy to get angry. We all know that drunk driving is dangerous, but angry driving is just as dangerous.
5. Think of the consequences. Not every driver on the road is a good law-abiding citizen. If you confront the wrong person, you just might get more than you bargained for. There are a lot of angry and crazy people in this world, most of whom have cars and just might be driving in front of you. Don’t put your safety or the safety of your loved ones in jeopardy. If someone cuts you off, or gives you an obscene hand gesture, let it go. Accept the fact that there are some people in this world that are naturally-born jerks. Confronting a jerk will get you nowhere: after the confrontation, you will still feel angry, and the other guy will still be a jerk. It’s a no-win situation.