It seems like today many people are like simmering pots ready to boil over. It doesn’t take much, perhaps a simple commercial showing the opposing candidate for an election, the evening news, or heavy traffic that can send someone into a fit of rage without notice.
Today, Road Rage is not just two people flipping each other off or madly honking their horns. All too often these days, the rage is ending in serious bodily injury and/or death. We have all been behind the wheel and less than attentive to what we are doing as the vehicle is traveling down the road. I might be thinking about the list of things I have to do, paying bills, the disturbing conversation I was just in with a colleague or friend, or perhaps something even more serious such as a loved one’s illness or a recent death. Then, I make the mistake of cutting someone off as I accidently travel into their lane. What is it about this simple act that sends people over the deep end?
All of a sudden, we have a madman tailgating us, honking their horn, flashing their high beams, racing in front of us only to slam on their brakes, or any of the other crazy things people are doing these days. Let me be clear when I say this, ‘This behavior is out of proportion to what just happened’. This person is ‘REACTING’ to something deeper, and you’re just the trigger.
If you react to their actions, then your behavior is equally out of proportion to the event. You have both created a secondary event that is now trumping the first. It becomes the game of Chicken—who will back down first?
Even worse is if you are the first aggressor, the person who is reacting to being cut off. You have to agree with me that you reacted to the event. Maybe not to the level as some, but never the less, you reacted and boiled over in two seconds.
When the act of aggression is against you; or if you’re the aggressor, in both scenarios, remind yourself that the other person might be having the worst day of their life. They may be pissed off, mad, hurt, angry, or deceived, and are trying to get home to a sick child, parent, or love one. You’ve probably been there yourself and you know how they are feeling and even though you may have not taken it out on the world, you still know how it feels. It is best for everyone if you can just let them go on down the road. Whether it’s true or not, you’ll never know, but it might save your life to let it go.
Experts all say, do not react. Not reacting is not being passive; it is understanding what is happening in that moment and being present and recognizing the moment for what it is, before you boil. All it might take is a count to ten for the annoyance to dissipate.
Studies have shown that 1,500 people are hurt or killed in a road rage accident every year! People are in their cars and feel safe, as if it is a protective bubble. It’s not. Bullets travel at a greater speed then you will ever travel.
But what happens if the other persons hostility continues to escalate even though you’re not reacting? Continue to not engage, but ensure your doors are locked and if you have to stop in traffic, leave enough room to pull out from behind the car your following. If the aggressor confronts you, dial 911 and report the driver as a ‘Dangerous Driver’. Even if you are close to home, don’t drive home, but instead, drive to your local police or fire station. One or the other is hopefully within a couple of miles.
Be the bigger person. Keep your cool. Don’t let the stress we are all under every single day affect you in such a way, that you or someone else could get hurt. You can’t take it back if something devastating results from five minutes of uncontrolled rage. Aggressive driving contributes to 56 percent of all fatal car crashes. Is it that important to risk your life? Fall is upon us and we are speeding straight for the holidays. Let’s not do it behind the wheel.