Road rage can defeat even the best drivers. Here’s how to keep your composure behind the wheel


Drivers swerve erratically when on their phones or rush dangerously around other cars. The sound of horns keeps you alert when traffic slows. That’s enough to test anyone’s patience.

In some cases, these feelings can lead to road rage, aggressive driving caused by stress or angry driving.

It often happens when drivers feel aggrieved, like another car slashing at them, said Ryan Martin, professor of psychology and associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green. Bay.

Some people express their anger on the road, for example by speeding around a car or stopping to fight, said Martin, author of “Why We Get Mad: How to Use Your Anger for Positive Change.”

“Because they are angry, frustrated and resentful, they make worse decisions than they otherwise would,” he said, “and all of those bad decisions can lead to accidental injury, injury or death. dead.”

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Others bring the stress they feel at home or work while driving, and something small can spur them on to drive aggressively, said Emanuel Robinson, a psychologist and practice leader and senior researcher at the Center for human performance and safety at Battelle. The organization is a non-profit organization that focuses on applied research in science and technology.

The power of anonymity

Many drivers feel anonymous on the road, leading them to take actions they otherwise wouldn’t, Robinson said.

“A person wouldn’t just walk to the start of a line they just walked into,” he said. “That would be very unusual.”

Often people adopt a driving persona that is more aggressive and rude than is socially acceptable because they think they are unidentifiable and will not see other drivers again.

Road rage can be managed using traffic psychology.

Drivers can also get the false impression that certain actions, like pressing the brakes to slow down and then speed up, are easy and safe to do, Martin said.

“The irony is that it’s not safe at all,” he said, “and there are very real consequences that can come from that.”

Calm your road rage

When you’re angry, you often find it hard to look at a situation from a different perspective, Robinson said. In those moments, start by taking deep breaths and don’t immediately respond, he said.

There’s also this notion where you assume the worst in others and blame their personality, Robinson said, as opposed to attributing flaws in yourself to outside factors.

“This person cut me off because she’s a bad person,” he said. “But if I cut someone, I made a mistake.”

Listening to soothing music or podcasts while driving can also be relaxing, Robinson said. It’s hard to get angry when you’re captivated by a podcast because you’re focused on listening to it, he said.

Finally, if freeway traffic creates anger and stress, try to take an equivalent route on local roads with fewer cars if possible, Robinson said.

Plan ahead

If you notice an aggressive driving pattern, you should find coping strategies before hitting the road, Martin said.

“Driving is one of the worst times to try to manage your anger because you’re not thinking clearly,” he said.

Drivers can plan in advance how they will react, Martin said. For example, if another driver cuts them off, they’ll think they’re the kind of person to let it go, he says.

Also, leave earlier when driving to a destination to limit the stress that can come from being late, Martin added.

If you find yourself running behind schedule, take a deep breath and avoid thoughts like, “Traffic is going to ruin my day,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s frustrating, but it’ll only set me back,” Martin thought, “and it’s not the worst thing in the world.”

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