Acts of aggression by other drivers, busy commutes and your own stress can lead to dangerous driving situations. But you don’t have to let frustrations escalate into the bad habits of aggressive driving and can avoid being involved in one of the 5 million costly vehicle collisions that happen each year in the U.S.
Follow these simple tips to keep calm, drive safely and prevent road rage from ruining your day.
5 Simple Tips to Calm Road Rage and Achieve Driving Bliss
1. Take Time and Be Prepared For Your Drive
Safe driving starts the night before with adequate sleep. Not only can driving drowsy be as dangerous as driving under the influence, but it makes for raw nerves that quickly flare-up on the road.
24 hours of being awake is the same as being legally drunk - The Sleep Foundation
At least 72,000 accidents annually are caused by drowsy driving - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
It’s also important to fuel up - and we aren’t just referring to the car.
Having breakfast in the car is a recipe for disaster. Eating on the road is a deadly distraction. Get an automatic coffee pot that has a timer and use the 15 minutes it takes for the caffeine to kick-in to prepare your GPS and finish getting ready. If you don’t have time for your morning cup of joe at home, skip the drive-thru and wait until you get where you’re going.
There is an 80% higher chance of an accident when you eat and drive - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Drivers drinking a beverage are 18% more likely to experience less-than-ideal lane control - The NHTSA
Once in the car, your only focus should be driving. Make arrangements ahead to avoid texting, mapping an address and fiddling with the entertainment console.
It’s also a good idea to notate the speed limits your route. After drunk driving, speeding is the second leading cause of fatalities. Set reasonable expectations for your drive time, plan ahead and allow for 10 extra minutes to set the pace for a relaxed, anger-free drive.
2. Be Your Best Neighbor
The Golden Rule is the gold standard for safe driving. Give that driver who suddenly changed lanes the benefit of the doubt. When aggravated, take a few deep, slow breaths. Your daily drive is a great time to practice patience and find your inner Zen.
Mind your manners, even when other drivers do not:
Yield the right-of-way. Merging is a zipper, not a speedway. Failing to yield is one of the highest causes of accidents.
Leave the left lane for passing only.
Respect traffic rules, signs, pedestrians and other drivers.
Use turn signals and let people in.
Be understanding and patient.
Be polite. Share the road. Apologize when you are in the wrong. A simple smile and humble wave goes a long way to disarm potential conflict.
3. Tune Into Your Calm Place
Research has shown that listening to some types of music or conversational sounds can reduce stress, boredom and anxiety that leads to impatience. Some background noise has even been shown to increase focus. However, music can also be a dangerous distraction.
Loud music can also increase your chances of getting into an accident. Music at 95 decibels or higher leads to 20% slower reaction time. Remember, you want to prevent and calm road rage not incite it.
Keep audio and passenger volume low to medium. Podcasts and audio-books are great ways to entertain yourself without amping up the road rage. Or choose soothing sounds that are ambient or downbeat, like softer jazz, rock or classical. Nature sounds or music with nature sounds tend to increase focus without distraction.
Neurologically, certain scents produce blissfully calming effects and increase focus. Transform your drive with lotions, essential oils or air fresheners that will retune your senses. A few calming scents to try include:
Lavender promotes healthy relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety and energizes focus.
Citrus boosts alertness while inspiring positive, stress-reducing feelings.
Peppermint or cinnamon reduce frustration and promote driver alertness without the jittery hazards of caffeine.
Fresh Grass increases the feeling of joyfulness and relaxes the mind.
Vanilla promotes calm, comfortable feelings of happiness to elevate mood, making smiling away aggression that much easier.
4. Live and Let Live (and Leave the Left Lane Be)
You are the ruler of your own tranquility. You are not the Guardian of the Highway. Do not hover in the fastest lane or block people from passing because you feel your mission is to go the speed limit—and ensure everyone else does. Slowing down traffic is not only impolite, but it also leads to accidents as other drivers weave to get around you. More states are cracking down with higher fines on left lane violators who muck up traffic.
Sure, tailgaters are the petty tyrants of the highways. Fortunately, just getting out of their way gets them out of your drive. Let aggressive drivers race ahead all by themselves and the problem of their aggression will be gone in a few deep breaths.
5. Take a Defensive Driving Course - But Not So You Can Go Faster!
Be prepared for adverse road conditions, other drivers and unexpected driving situations. A drivers safety course or defensive driver class is an easy way to learn to anticipate problems and respond safely. Taking an online course can also provide financial benefits in the form of reduced insurance rates and traffic fine reductions.
Remember, to calm road rage and get to work happier you need to drive safely and try and calm road rage in others by not being an aggressive driver. Live and let live. And get where you are going safely.
*This article was updated on 6/11/2020